Baguio City reimposes border controls on Benguet towns despite lower daily COVID-19 cases

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 19) – After relaxing border controls last Nov. 15, the Baguio City's local government will reimpose them anew on nearby Benguet towns starting Saturday because of high COVID-19 positivity rates in these areas.

The towns covered by the temporary access restriction in Baguio City are La Trinidad, Sablan, Tublay, and Tuba. The strict border controls in these towns will last until Dec. 4.

"Tuba has a positivity rate of four point something. La Trinidad has positivity rate of three percent. That's what we're controlling," said Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong.

Under the advisory released by the Baguio City LGU on Thursday, only the residents of the four towns who are workers of public and private offices or establishments and those with medical appointments or medical emergencies shall be allowed to enter the city during the 14-day access restriction period.

La Trinidad locals must present a valid government-issued ID as proof of residence, any document as proof of employment or business in Baguio City, and a medical certificate issued by the Provincial Health Office or the Municipal Health Office stating the resident is not a possible, probable, or suspect case of COVID-19 and that he or she did not exhibit flu-like symptoms in the last five days.

Sablan, Tuba, and Tublay residents eligible for entry in Baguio City are also required to show the same requirements, including a barangay-issued quarantine pass for those coming into the city for essential goods and services.

Those without a medical certificate will be directed to the Baguio City Central Triage Unit for proper health assessment.

Exempted or not required to present the abovementioned documents at designated checkpoints are health workers, member of Contact Tracing Teams, and personnel of the AFP, PNP and the Bureau of Fire Protection.

Magalong urged Baguio City residents to limit their travels to the four nearby towns, while offices and establishments which have employees and workers residing in those areas are encouraged to implement work-from-home or alternate work arrangements.

The Baguio City mayor emphasized the city will continue to help other Benguet towns, where he said they donated 15,000 test kits, 120 hospital beds, and a portion of the city's contact tracers, to cope with the COVID-19 outbreak.

Clarifying the OCTA report

Magalong also told CNN Philippines the city is seeing a decline in its daily COVID-19 infections, from an average of 50 cases three weeks ago to about 30 cases this week.

He clarified that the sudden spike in the city's cases presented in the latest OCTA Research Team report released on Tuesday happened three weeks ago, where around 500 people got infected in an outbreak in two barangays.

"We were able to contain these infections. Our cases are now declining," said the Baguio City mayor.

The summer capital incurred its lowest COVID-19 cases per day on Thursday since Oct.6, with 14 additional infections. Its total cases are at 2,840 with 376 active infections, along with 39 deaths and 2,425 recoveries.

Magalong admitted the city's hospital capacity has a high occupancy rate because of the surge of infected health workers. OCTA researchers mentioned in its latest report that Baguio's hospital occupancy rate reached the critical level and now stands at 81%.

"If you are the hospital management, you make sure you take care of your health workers even if they're asymptomatic or mild symptomatic," he added.

St. Louis University Hospital announced it will not accommodate COVID-19 patients because its 20 isolation beds are all occupied. According to the University of the Philippines Resilience Institute COVID-19 tracker, the isolation beds in Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center and Notre Dame de Chartres Hospital are also fully occupied.

CNN Philippines' Lauren Anuma and David Tristan Yumol contributed to this report.