MANILA — Active COVID-19 cases in six Philippine provinces doubled or grew more than double from June 7 to June 14, according to Department of Health data analyzed by the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group (IRG).
Leyte: from 9 active cases as of June 7, to 71 active cases as of June 14
Pangasinan: from 16 to 44
Benguet: from 8 to 21
Apayao: from 1 to 7
Lanao del Sur: from 0 to 7
Northern Samar: from 0 to 6
Active cases refer to patients who have not yet recovered or are still in the hospital or under home quarantine.
However, not all active cases were accounted for since as of June 14, no specified locations were provided in the DOH data for 5,559 active cases.
Cases in Agusan del Norte, Misamis Occidental, Abra and Isabela provinces also doubled, but only a total of 3 or 4 active cases are reflected for the period June 7-14.
Abra, Apayao and Lanao del Sur were among the provinces that asked for stricter lockdowns, or a shift from the modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) back to GCQ, according to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Monday afternoon.
President Rodrigo Duterte eventually announced that the three provinces will remain under MGCQ until June 30, as with almost the rest of the country, when he announced the re-classification of quarantine measures.
In the heat map of active cases prepared by ABS-CBN IRG (seen below), the provinces of Leyte, Pangasinan and Benguet appear redder because of the marked increase of active cases during the 8-day period.
Leyte, which saw a spike of active cases from just 9 on June 7, to 71 by June 14, is among the pilot areas of the government’s Balik Probinsya program, a pet project of Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go that seeks to decongest Metro Manila by providing free transportation and livelihood grants to those who want to return to their home provinces.
A total of 111 individuals or 85 families arrived in Leyte on May 22 through the said program. The government said only those who test negative for COVID-19 and have health clearances are allowed to go home.
However, one beneficiary who presented a health certificate was found to be infected with COVID-19 upon returning to Leyte.
Go has defended the program, and said on May 28 that it’s really possible a person can test positive after testing negative of the virus.
But the program has caused frustration among local chief executives, including Mayor Richard Gomez of Ormoc City in Leyte.
“We were not informed of the people arriving. We were just surprised there was a bus already,” Gomez told ANC in late May.
According to the ABS-CBN IRG, 7 of the 71 active cases in Leyte, as of June 14, are in Ormoc City. Most of the cases are in Alangalang town with 15, followed by Baybay City with 14, and Dagami with 10.
Back in April, Ormoc City was the only independent component city among the 55 cities in the country with zero cases of COVID-19.
Gomez attributed it then to their strict border controls.
After the report of a Balik Probinsya beneficiary testing positive, the program was suspended, supposedly because the government wants to focusing instead on bringing home stranded tourists, students and workers.
When the program was halted, media reports said it has only been able to bring home beneficiaries to Leyte. It is unclear if the program had been able to bring home people to other pilot areas.
Including Leyte, six of the 10 pilot areas were seen to have increased active cases of the COVID-19, based on DOH data.
The six, namely Leyte, Pangasinan, Negros Occidental, Northern Samar, Southern Leyte, and Masbate, were also among the top 10 provinces to have the highest number of registered beneficiaries, according to a Philippine Information Agency report. This could also indicate a high demand for people from Metro Manila, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, to travel home to these provinces.
The ABS-CBN IRG also found 7 provinces that used to have zero active cases as of June 7, but now have 1 to 3 active cases. These are Southern Leyte, Biliran, Eastern Samar, Surigao del Sur, Davao del Norte, Kalinga, and Palawan.
Cebu province, which initially sought to be downgraded to MGCQ but was placed under GCQ instead, had the most number of additional active cases last week at 704.
“This was equivalent to a 24 percent increase, from 2,887 active cases as of June 7, to 3,591 active cases as of June 14,” ABS-CBN IRG said.
Cebu City, which was placed under the stricter enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), accounted for 73% or 2,609 of the 3,591 active cases in the province as of June 14.
Meanwhile, a reduction of active cases were observed in 19 provinces last week.
Of those, 7 showed double-digit decrease:
- Rizal: from 367 active cases as of June 7, to 331 active cases as of June 14
- Laguna: from 345 to 312
- Davao del Sur: from 139 to 107
- Bataan: from 82 to 62
- Nueva Ecija: from 42 to 30
- Tarlac: from 24 to 14
- Albay: from 42 to 32
Fifteen other provinces sustained having zero active cases during the same 8-day period.