Cabaero: Who’s next?

Nini Cabaero
·3 min read

WITH the National Capital Region plus other provinces now under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), the question raised by some is — What city or province will be next?

Now that we have been battling the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) for a year, there have been patterns that can be gleaned from the sequence of areas with high infection rates. From Luzon, Visayas and then to Mindanao. Nothing scientific to it except that it was the sequence based on the declaration of ECQ, the strictest quarantine status.

The nature of the disease itself makes it difficult to predict what area will see an increase in cases next and be the one under ECQ after the “NCR Plus,” referring to the National Capital Region plus other provinces. The Sars-CoV-2 that causes Covid-19 is known to be highly transmissible and one can catch the virus from almost anywhere if one is not careful.

Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna and Cavite which the government calls “NCR Plus” went on ECQ on Monday, March 29, 2021, and will continue until Easter Sunday, April 4. The ECQ was ordered after a sharp rise in the number of infection cases due to several factors.

The causes are the modes of transmission which could be addressed by the safety protocols of wearing mask and face shield and social distancing or staying home, the variants, the slow acquisition and deployment of vaccines, and people becoming less vigilant after learning of the start of inoculation.

Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, Department of Health (DOH) 7 spokesperson, said in a briefing Monday that Cebu was not a candidate for stricter quarantine measures. She said she had to make that assurance as she has been asked if Cebu would be next in the ECQ declaration after the “NCR Plus.”

Loreche said that of the 865 allocated beds for Covid-19 patients in Cebu, only 310 were in use as of Friday, March 26. That left a total of 555 beds still available. The critical care utilization rate (CCUR) of private hospitals in Cebu is at a safe level of 35.8 percent, below the 60 percent threshold. The CCUR refers to the regular and intensive care unit beds dedicated for Covid-19 patients and isolation beds and ventilators in use in various Covid-19 facilities.

These numbers are good but are not enough to reassure. What would be reassuring is if the DOH 7 were to give timetables for vaccine rollout and also report on the contact tracing results and what to do with families who have the symptoms but decide not to take the swab test or see a doctor or report their condition to their barangay health centers. These people prevent the government from getting real figures in infection cases and they also put their close contacts at risk since they too would not be tested.

Presenting incomplete information might give Cebu a false sense of security and justify a further reopening of the economy before it is safe to do so.