‘WORST WEEKEND’: Mayor fears Alert Level 4 as city logs record-breaking COVID cases

By Joseph B.A. Marzan and Dolly Yasa

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas said on Sunday that he fears that the city may escalate to Alert Level 4 status, as more than 1,000 new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-29) cases were logged over the weekend.

The Iloilo City Epidemiological Surveillance Unit (ICESU) recorded 1,274 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend, which include 637 on Friday, Jan. 21; 415 on Saturday, Jan. 22; and 222 as of 12:00 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 23.

The 637 cases listed on Jan. 21 was the highest single-day record for new cases in the city since the pandemic erupted in March 2020.

The number included 344 index cases, who did not have any history of close contacts; and 929 identified local transmissions, who were identified as close contacts of previous confirmed cases.

Also confirmed by the ICESU, and excluded from the weekend tallies, are 556 Iloilo province residents, 134 remaining positive on repeat swab tests, 70 reinfections, 11 returning residents, 4 returning Overseas Filipino Workers (ROFWs), and 3 Authorized Persons Outside of Residence (APORs).

Treñas told Daily Guardian of his suspicion that the consistent, rapid rise in COVID-19 infections may be due to the Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant.

He also pointed to the increased number of people going to the La Paz Gym to have their RT-PCR test samples collected, catering up to 3,000 samples per day from Monday to Saturday.

The La Paz Gym is open to free testing for those who are either symptomatic or identified as close contacts of confirmed cases, as well as those who pay for testing at an P800 rate.

These samples would be tested via RT-PCR at the Uswag Molecular Laboratory at Brgy. San Pedro, Molo district, which also tests samples from Iloilo province and other neighboring provinces.

“Most of these cases are mild and asymptomatic, and we can see that many of these come from offices, after which it would affect respective households. We and the [Department of Health] think that this may already be because of the Omicron variant,” he said in a phone interview.

Treñas said there may be a big possibility of the city being placed under Alert Level 4 area because of the recent uptrend in new cases.

He cited that the city’s Health Care Utilization Rate (HCUR), which refers to the percentage rate of COVID-dedicated hospital beds and mechanical ventilator units being used, had already reached 70 percent.

City hospitals have already committed to the mayor that they would increase their COVID-dedicated beds.

Western Visayas Medical Center in Mandurriao has committed to add 70 COVID beds, and St. Paul’s Hospital Iloilo with 30 Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds.

But despite fears of a rise in the Alert Level, the mayor said that an increase in restrictions are still yet to be seen, noting his personal observation that mobility has decreased in the past few weeks.

“Our HCUR has reached over 70 percent for the past few days. I met with the hospitals and they committed to increasing their COVID Ward and ICU beds, but some hospitals cannot help as of this time because they lack nurses. They also had requests for additional nurses, which we have followed up with the DOH,” he said.

Several city government offices have also been announced to be closed for disinfection due to confirmed COVID cases in their premises, including the Office of Senior Citizens Affairs and the Persons with Disability Affairs Office at the Iloilo City Hall, and the Uswag Dialysis Center at Brgy. East Baluarte, Molo.

Independent analytics group OCTA Research said on Sunday that there is a “severe outbreak” of COVID-19 infections in Iloilo City.

Citing data from the Department of Health (DOH), OCTA Research fellow Guido David said via Twitter that Iloilo City, Cebu City, and Lapu-Lapu had “new highs” in COVID-19 cases.

“Cebu City, Iloilo City and Lapu Lapu had new highs in cases reported by DOH on Jan 22. This moved Iloilo City to severe outbreak classification (with Baguio),” David posted on Twitter.

From Jan 16 to 22, Iloilo City had an average daily attack rate (ADAR) of 82.38. ADAR refers to the average number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 individuals.

Iloilo City also posted a one-week COVID-19 growth rate of 190 percent.

The city also logged a reproduction number of 3.51 as of Jan 19.

The reproduction number is the average number of individuals infected by one positive case. Health expert said the ideal reproduction number must be less than one to indicate lesser transmission.


In Bacolod City, Negros Occidental acting governor, Vice Gov. Jeffrey Ferrer confirmed Sunday that the entire provincial capitol building was locked down after Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson and 19 other employees tested positive for COVID-19.

Ferrer told the Daily Guardian here that the Vice Governor’s Office and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan were also included in the lockdown.

Earlier, Provincial Administrator Rayfrando Diaz said Lacson’s three-day “health break” was extended after he tested positive over the weekend.

Diaz said Lacson’s isolation period has been extended to 10 days.

He added that the governor is feeling okay except for the sore throat he experienced earlier last week while on an official sortie in the southern part of the province.

Diaz said Lacson was not infectious during his trip to southern Negros.

There is no need to test those who were with him, he added.

Lacson underwent a rapid antigen test after his southern Negros sortie and initially tested “non-reactive”.

But on Saturday morning he got swabbed and the result that came out in the afternoon showed he was infected with the virus.