EVEN before the “virtual” Sinulog this year, Cebu already had a lot to thank the Sto. Niño for in keeping Cebuanos safe from the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
It was almost a year ago when the country had its first coronavirus infection case. The first patient was followed by five more infected persons until, in early March last year, local transmission of the Sars-CoV-2 was confirmed and President Rodrigo Duterte was forced to declare a state of public health emergency. The next things we knew were the lockdown and restrictions whose impact we continue to bear.
As we thank the Señor Sto. Niño after every Sinulog for a successful celebration, we also look at our blessings from last year when protection of Cebu from the virus started.
Looking back, we see how fortunate Cebu was last year to have only a close encounter with the virus. The third infection case in the country involved a 60-year-old Chinese woman who flew into Cebu City from Hong Kong on January 20, a day after Cebu held the culminating activity, the Sinulog grand parade, on January 19, 2020.
Patient no. 3 was in Cebu the day after the grand parade that, according to news reports, saw a record two million people on the streets joining the dance contingents and the festivities. Imagine if the tourist arrived a day earlier and, since she was already in Cebu, joined the grand parade.
The tourist arrived from Hong Kong, had a stopover in Cebu and proceeded to Bohol where, on January 22, she went to a private hospital to see a doctor about her fever and rhinitis. The first samples taken from her turned out negative of the new coronavirus. On February 3, however, the Department of Health was notified that a second sample taken from the patient on January 23 tested positive for the virus. At that time, the patient was no longer in the country. She was allowed to go home to China on January 31 after she recovered.
For this year’s Sinulog, Cebu was fortunate to keep the celebration safe. Public activities such as the three processions, the fluvial parade and the motorcade were canceled to reduce transmission risk. Novena masses after the fourth day were limited to priests and a few church members and the public was barred from attending in person. Online masses were the only ways for devotees to join.
The Cebu City Government and the Sinulog Foundation Inc. canceled dancing on the streets and the showdown that could have raised the risk of transmission. It was a different celebration with activities done online but the decision to cancel events prevented the spread of the virus.
Our thanksgiving to Señor Sto. Niño extends to last year’s Sinulog when we were spared what could have possibly been the first superspreader event in the country with one contagious person infecting a large number of people.