Baguio City to tighten measures on gatherings, travelers' entry amid spike in COVID-19 cases

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The Baguio City government is set to implement stricter policies on private social gatherings and entry of travelers, following the recently detected clusters of COVID-19 cases in the area. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 29) — The Baguio City government has taken steps to temper the recent spikes in its COVID-19 cases after two consecutive days of reporting 68 new patients — its highest daily increase.

In two local executive orders released on Tuesday, Baguio mayor and contact tracing czar Benjamin Magalong mandated a number of regulatory measures on private social gatherings and entry of travelers to prevent further outbreaks in the city.

Baguio residents who intend to hold private social events from Sept. 30 to Oct. 14 in hotels, conference halls, convention venues and other similar premises will only be permitted to do so upon securing the approval of the mayor. These include birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, gatherings to mourn departed loved ones, and non-work-related events.

Besides obtaining the local chief executive's approval, those who will host a gathering must also ensure the venue is inspected by the city health services office personnel prior to the event.

Meanwhile, residents who will hold gatherings at home will have to notify their barangay officials first.

In all cases, the local government stressed that basic health protocols must be observed at all times.

It noted that a clustering of cases has recently been detected in different barangays in the city. Based on data from contact tracing, it said the common factor is that "the patients attended, and participated in, social gathering that took place in the home or in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation conditions and with little adherence to our basic healthful practices."

According to the Baguio City public information office, the majority of Tuesday's new cases came from the two major clusters in two barangays.

“Of the total, 65 were contacts of previous cases and 16 came from the Slaughterhouse Compound cluster which previously had 56 active cases and nine from Lower Lourdes Subdivision which had 83,” it said.

On travelers' entry

To further prevent viral transmission, the local government will also strengthen its protocols for travelers entering the city starting Oct. 3 and “until necessity requires.”

In accordance with another executive order released on the same day, the city is requiring the following travelers to present negative results of either RT-PCR or rapid antigen COVID-19 tests conducted within a period of 72 hours prior to their entry:

- Government officials and government frontline personnel who are not assigned to the BLISTT (Benguet, La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba, and Tublay) area;

- Duly authorized humanitarian assistance actors; and

- Persons traveling for humanitarian, or medical, reasons — their companions included;

- Persons with indispensable, or work-related, one-time transactions, or whose travel purposes do not require regular or frequent entry into the city

If unable to present negative test results prior to entry, they shall submit themselves for testing at the Baguio City central triage and testing Center. This is still apart from the registration and triage requirements.

Returning Baguio residents, employees enterting the city for the first time since the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine, and non-resident students may opt to undergo a 14-day quarantine under the supervision of their barangay officials as an alternative to the COVID-19 testing.

Meanwhile, persons with indispensable or work-related travel purposes regularly passing through the city checkpoints, who are holders of COVID Shield travel authority documents (with inter-region work clearance certificates attached) or official travel orders as issued by their respective offices, will be asked to undergo RT-PCR or rapid antigen testing once a month.

“Entry of domestic tourists shall be governed by the implementing guidelines of the Ridge and Reef Travel Corridor project, the details of which are incorporated in their registration through the V.I.S.I.T.A. website,” the city government added.

Filipinos returning from abroad are also expected to follow the procedures set by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and the Department of Tourism.

Baguio City has been considered a model city for its COVID-19 response, particularly for its aggressive contact tracing efforts.

To date, it has tallied a total of 915 cases of the disease. Of this number, 425 remain active or are currently ill patients, after 478 have recovered and 12 have died.