THE report that said two persons, with addresses in Talisay City and Liloan town, were found positive for the highly infectious variant of the Covid-19 virus could have easily led to panic.
The thought that came to the mind of those who heard the news was of the last time they were in Talisay or Liloan and who they knew lived there.
The Department of Health (DOH) said Friday night, Feb. 5, 2021, there were eight new cases of those infected with the more transmissible and deadly B.1.1.7 variant of the Sars-CoV-2 that causes the coronavirus disease (Covid-19). Of the eight, two had Cebu addresses.
The DOH statement said the one with a Talisay, Cebu, local address is a 54-year-old male who is a returning overseas Filipino. The one from Liloan, Cebu, is a 35-year-old male whose sample was collected last Jan. 17 and he has been tagged as an active case with mild disease and is currently being managed. That was all the DOH said.
As the DOH report came out on news websites, Talisay City Mayor Gerald Anthony Gullas issued a statement to try to calm fears. He said: “First of all, please don’t panic. If you have already read the news online, please read our statement first before making any reaction.” He knew how people would react to the DOH news. Gullas said the patient has not set foot in Talisay City since he arrived in the country last month. The patient returned to Talisay only after he was declared as recovered by doctors from a hospital in Cebu City, Gullas said based on what the DOH told him. Upon arrival at the airport from one of the countries being monitored for the UK variant, the patient was brought to a nearby hotel for isolation and quarantine while waiting for his swab test results. When the results showed he was positive for the variant, Gullas said, the patient was admitted to a public hospital. He recovered and was declared free of the virus last Feb. 2 and is now at home, Gullas said.
“I urge our constituents not to panic. Everyone is doing their best to ensure that we all remain safe. Our local health officials are also vigilant in ensuring that the new UK variant does not affect us. Let us continue to pray that this pandemic will eventually pass,” the mayor said.
Gullas’s prompt clarification and appeal not to panic must have reassured constituents. His immediate action showed residents he is in charge, he knows what is happening and he will let them know of the developments.
This is how local leaders should handle a situation that could raise fear and anxiety. Through information and by showing people they have it under control.
It would help, too, if the DOH provided adequate information at the time of disclosure, knowing that a little knowledge, in this case, a little information, can be a dangerous thing.