Baguio-Benguet mayors forge holistic plan to stifle COVID-19 spread

BAGUIO CITY – The mayors of Baguio City and Benguet towns, June 15, agreed to act as a unit in battling the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
This, in response to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in the adjoining local government units (LGU).
Baguio City Mayor Benjamin B. Magalong who hosted the Benguet LGUs during the Baguio City Inter-Agency Task Force meeting at Baguio City Hall said, “As neighbors, we have to work together and protect each other.”
“Anything that happens in one locality [impacts] the others,” he added.
Mayors Romeo Salda of La Trinidad; Victorio Palangdan of Itogon; Clarita Sal-ongan of Tuba; Ruben Tinda-an of Buguias; Armando Lauro of Tublay; Thomas Wales of Bokod; Frenzel Ayong of Mankayan; and, Vice Mayor Arthur Baldo of Sablan attended the meeting.
The areas of cooperation agreed upon by the mayors include contact tracing, testing and border control, among others.
Magalong said the spike in cases is alarming. If left unabated, it might result in the doubling of figures in no time.
He offered to share the city’s strategy in containing the virus, including the software and capability building for free.
To start synchronization of actions of the LGUs, the mayors agreed to a 14-day training and immersion program for their respective police operatives and information technology (I.T.) personnel, using the city’s current COVID-19 detection and contact tracing resources.
Magalong said the I.T. system used by the city is a “powerful tool in establishing the entire picture on the links of the patients.”
It will help the LGUs integrate data considering that the contacts of some of the cases are interlinked, he added.
Meantime, the chiefs of the LGUs agreed to tighten their borders especially against those abusing cross-border permits and authorizations, usually involving those delivering foodstuffs and other items; and, those conducting businesses in Baguio and Benguet without business permits.
The police forces of Baguio and La Trinidad, meanwhile, are in talks to make their border procedures more efficient.
To address current surge in COVID-19 cases, the LGUs also agreed to ramp up testing of vulnerable sectors like vegetable dealers and truck drivers, who conduct business in lowland areas with high incidence of virus infections.
All municipalities were requested to submit list of priorities for swab and rapid testing subject to availability of kits.
For his part, Dr. Ricardo Ruñez Jr. of the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center Medical (BGHMC) said test kits have been allocated for Benguet even though there is shortage in consumables.
Magalong offered some of the city’s rapid test kits for those who will not be covered by the swab tests. He promised to help work out more supplies of test kits and consumables.
Meanwhile, the city mayor offered to include La Trinidad in the planned cashless transactions for public utility vehicles now being worked out by the city government to reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission. ** Aileen P. Refuerzo

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