Lockdown in Mt. Province eyed amid surge in COVID-19 variant

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Metro Manila (CNN Philipines, January 24) — A province-wide lockdown in the whole Mountain Province may be imposed amid a surge in cases of the new coronavirus variant reported in Bontoc town, its mayor said over the weekend.

Bontoc Mayor Franklin Odsey said in a statement on Saturday evening that there could be an expansion of lockdowns in the town, including its other villages or the whole province, depending on the contact tracing results being done after at least 12 residents tested positive for the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant that first emerged in the United Kingdom.

"Given the detection of the UK variant in Bontoc, the extension of the lockdowns is likely, and may also expand to all the 16 barangays of the town and perhaps to the whole Mountain Province, depending on contact tracing results," Odsey said.

READ: Bontoc, Mountain Province sees 200% increase in COVID-19 cases 

The Department of Health reported on Saturday that the 12 Bontoc residents were among the 16 reported cases of the B.1.1.7 variant which is described to be more contagious than previous ones. Eleven cases with the variant virus were recorded in one Bontoc village alone.

According to Odsey, the "dramatic increase" in positive cases prompted the municipality to impose a two-week lockdown until end of January on Barangay Samoki, and a one-week lockdown on Barangays Bontoc Ili, Caluttit, and Poblacion in Central Bontoc until January 24. The four villages were also placed under "critical zone" until the end of the month.

Odsey, who has tested positive for COVID-19 himself, said that the local government of Bontoc is coordinating with the national government for the provision of testing kits for a mass testing initiative. They have also sought deployment of additional contact tracers and other health personnel as a number of their medical frontliners in the local hospital and the municipal health office have also contracted the virus.

READ: Bontoc town mayor tests positive for COVID-19 

"As president of the Mountain Province League of Mayors, we have coordinated with our fellow mayors here about intensified and collaborative COVID response in all towns, including stricter border control," Odsey said.

Of the 16 cases, the other two patients are overseas Filipino workers who returned to the country last Dec. 29 from Lebanon via a Philippine Airlines flight. The remaining two are local cases detected in La Trinidad, Benguet and Calamba City, Laguna.

Effective last Saturday evening, La Trinidad Mayor Romeo Salda imposed an 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew in the municipality. All business establishments must also be closed at 8 p.m., except for drug stores and gasoline stations, the order read.