Watch out for COVID-19 UK strain
By Leonardo Micua
BEFORE our deadline, we received the good news that the number of COVID-19 cases in Pangasinan is now on a downtrend after its sharp rise during the early part of January in the aftermath of the holiday season. And as confirmed by Dr. Anna de Guzman, the provincial health officer, none of these cases bear the new COVID-19 UK variant is said to be more transmittable than the mother coronavirus strain.
The bad news is, the new COVID-19 UK variant may soon be in our province sooner than expected, given our proximity to the Cordillera region where this strain already made a strong presence a few days ago, if we are complacent.
Reports said that a number of people in Bontoc, the capital town of Mt. Province, had already been confirmed to have been infected by the UK COVID-19 strain. Worse, it is reported that this strain was already detected among COVID-19 patients in La Trinidad, Benguet, when doctors submitted their specimens for genome sequencing.
La Trinidad is only a few kilometers away from Baguio City, the melting pot of all Cordillerans and also the lowlanders. And Baguio is only more than one-hour drive to Dagupan and Pangasinan.
Remember, it is from La Trinidad where we source our fresh highland vegetables. From there, the veggies are transported daily to the bagsakan markets in Urdaneta and Villasis before they are shipped by trucks to various markets of Pangasinan and Metro Manila.
It is also possible that the more contagious COVID-19 UK strain could be brought in by traders supplying vegetables produced in Benguet. Recall that some drivers and helpers of cargo trucks bringing fish from Navotas, Metro Manila and Bulacan for sale in Dagupan, were already pinpointed as carriers and have infected vendors at the Magsaysay Fish Market.
Too, let’s not forget that Baguio is the home of many Pangasinenses, including Dagupenos, who already settled there too long a time who visit their relatives here from time to time. Still, many of our youngsters are still studying, albeit through distance learning, in different universities there.
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Exacerbating the situation was a report on TV on Tuesday that some barangays of Baguio were placed on lockdown because of rising number of active COVID-19 cases, which fortunately are not of the UK variant type.
And, we are glad to hear that there is a strict border control in place 24/7 between Baguio and La Trinidad. But what is disgusting is the reported alleged violation of health and safety protocols by people who partied with Mayor Benjie Magalong and his wife, at the Manor Hotel in Camp John Hay some of whom did not wear masks and did not observe social distancing.
Having covered Baguio for six long years during our younger days in the PNA, I know that once Baguio is infected, Dagupan and Pangasinan will soon be next. Hopefully, it will not.
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Even if recent statistics show that Dagupan City’s active COVID-19 cases drop to 178 as of January 25 this year, from its highest surge at 248 last January 17, we can never be sure that the cases will not escalate again since there seems to be no one in charge of enforcing the minimum health and safety standard protocol promulgated by the IATF.
Note that waifs in unwashed clothes still roam around freely begging for alms in the city streets despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s recall of the national IATF’s new policy allowing this age group to join the ranks of Authorized Persons Outside of Residence (APORs).
On Tuesday, I spotted a mother, clutching a less than one year infant in her arm, boarding a stalled jeepney begging for alms from passengers. The woman had no face mask and neither did the baby.
It’s about time that the city government, especially its social welfare and development office, looks after their welfare in these times of the pandemic. They should not be moving around in their conditions, exposing them to the coronavirus, and becoming carriers.
One night, close to Christmas, I was riding a jeepney bound for home and when the jeepney stopped and allowed some Badjao children with no face masks to board and started distributing envelopes to passengers.
I called the attention of the jeepney driver to order the children out because they had no face masks on but the driver ignored my concern. The driver was not even aware he was violating the terms of his franchise.
If no one in the city hall cares to do anything to protect both the public and distressed people like the roaming Badjaos, then the city likely see the pandemic reach its worst level yet.
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