On Baguio Day, DOT chief lauds âSummer Capitalâ as model city for COVID-19 containment
In this Sept. 1, 2020 photo, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat delivers her keynote address for the 111th Baguio Day celebration.
Public Information Office - City of Baguio/Facebook
On Baguio Day, DOT chief lauds ‘Summer Capital’ as model city for COVID-19 containment
Rosette Adel (Philstar.com) - September 1, 2020 - 9:17pm

MANILA, Philippines — Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat on Tuesday praised Baguio City at its 111th charter day celebration for being a model city for coronavirus disease containment.

“This may not feel like a time for celebration. We are still under a community quarantine, and whether or not an area has managed to successfully contain the virus, the economic
fallout has hit everyone and everywhere very hard, the tourism industry more so,” Puyat said.

“Today, however let us recognize how Baguio City has admirably risen to the challenges and effectively responded to the crisis, turning it into a model city for containment and
one of several tourist destinations that is preparing to enter into tourism corridor arrangements with partner LGUs (local government units) with similarly low or zero-risk areas,” she added.

Puyat commended Baguio City for being one of the first to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, citing that it implemented restrictions as early as January when it suspended the 2020 edition of the Panagbenga festivities, a major crowd-drawing event.

“Swift action and strict compliance with lockdown measures averted what could have been a dire situation. With the rest of the Cordillera
Administrative Region, Baguio City is now under MGCQ (modified general community quarantine),” she said.

According to the data tracker of the Department of Health Cordillera Center for Health Development, Baguio has a total of 340 COVID-19 cases as of September 1.

The tourism chief, also a member of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, attributed the low number of cases to the thorough process of testing, tracing and isolating that continues to be implemented. The city is led by Mayor Benjamin Magalong, who has also been designated contact tracing czar.

Baguio's contact tracing strategy

In her speech, Puyat cited that the city has the “highest testing per total population” for any local government unit in the country.

She said that Baguio City has administrated 35,342 real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR tests) that yielded negative results, meaning one out of ten are being tested.

Likewise, Baguio has the highest ratio of contacts being traced for every COVID-19 case with up to 37 persons traced per patient. Magalong said the city is now at 1:20 ratio, where for every patient, 20 high risk contacts are traced, tested.

Puyat said that the 1:37 ratio target also needs to be met in urban areas and COVID hotspots in the country.

According to the tourism secretary, Baguio City’s contact tracing team composed of more than 600 personnel from the City Health Services Office and the Baguio City Police Office are all trained on the Cognitive Interview technique.

“Effective contact tracing requires the right questions to be asked in order to prod a person’s memory,” the tourism chief said.

 “This method of interviewing yields more complete results than merely asking someone to list down the names of the people they remember being in contact with over the span of two weeks. By helping patients remember more, cognitive interviews become an important tool in the arsenal used to combat the virus,” she added.

Puyat also cited that the City of Pines, was earlier recognized by the World Health Organization for its contact tracing strategy, saying that its efforts should be replicated nationwide.

“Now that Mayor Magalong has been appointed the nation’s contact tracing czar, this is something we can look forward to,” she said.

The WHO commended Baguio City in July for its local COVID-19 response after a field visit to the city.

“Baguio City is far ahead in their contact tracing because local officials are working together with health officials. This should be replicated in other LGUs in the Philippines,” said Officer in Charge and Acting WHO Representative in the Philippines Rabindra Dr. Abeyasinghe.

Aside from its contact tracing efforts, Puyat, who last June said she is eyeing to make Baguio a model tourist spot for physical distancing, said the city has also implemented strict healthy and safety protocols such as cashless payment methods, regular disinfection of public spaces, wearing of face shields of all employees, and the use of robots in medicine delivery among others.

For his part, Mayor Magalong attributed the low cases to the relentless border controls, tracing and containment efforts. He has implemented targeted lockdowns.

COVID-19 frontliners honored too

Meanwhile, Magalong, in his state of the city address, recognized the frontliners who have been working tirelessly for half a year into the pandemic.

“To the health care professionals, the community volunteers, the contact tracing teams, men and women in uniform, workers in the grocery stores and accommodation facilities, public transport drivers, errand service providers, retail workers and service crew, media, government employees, and those who donated in cash and in kind – we want to acknowledge this gift of a continued life that you are giving to everyone. We salute you. You are in our hearts and prayers,” the mayor said.

Puyat also extended her sincerest appreciation to these frontliners.

“Thank you for the work that you continue to do to keep Baguio safe. Your efforts have been so integral to getting Baguio to where it is today in our current public health situation,” Puyat said in her keynote speech.

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