Clustering of barangays, granular lockdowns eyed

CLUSTERING of barangays, a strict one-pass-per-household scheme and barangay lockdowns are among the initial measures that the Cebu City Government will implement in a bid to contain the local coronavirus epidemic.

Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella said he will divide the 80 barangays in the city into clusters and assign each cluster a day during which residents may go out of their homes to procure necessities and run errands for the duration of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

Only one ECQ pass per household will be issued. Each pass will contain a QR (quick response) code that will easily identify residents of a barangay.

Only 100,000 QR codes will be generated to control movement of people outside their homes.

Labella said he will tap the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the distribution of new quarantine passes to make sure that only one is issued per household.

Labella said he has directed City Administrator Floro Casas Jr. to fast-track the generation of QR codes and issue these as soon as possible.

In the meantime, frontliners, essential workers, and other authorized persons outside residence (Apor) may continue showing their identification cards and certificates of employment at border checkpoints.

Labella appealed to the public to cooperate with the government and stay at home so as not to worsen the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) situation.

He said the Department of Social Welfare and Services (DSWS) has been distributing 25 kilos of rice to each of the 200,000 families in the city.

The City is spending the recently approved P500 million budget for the purchase of relief goods, Labella said.

Retired general Roy Cimatu, concurrently the Environment Secretary and overseer of the government’s Covid-19 response in Cebu, said in a press conference Wednesday night, June 24, 2020, that there are now two task forces dealing with the local Covid-19 epidemic: Task Force Cebu City and Task Force Cebu Province.

The organizational setup of these two task forces and other measures that will be implemented to contain the epidemic will be further discussed in another meeting Thursday, June 25.

Selective issuance

The meeting will also discuss the mechanics for the issuance of quarantine passes.

Labella said issuance of passes will now be “very selective” to make people stay at home.

The 250,000 enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) passes that the Cebu City Government issued in March were cancelled effective June 23, several hours after Cimatu’s arrival.

Labella said he cancelled the passes as recommended by Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año, who had observed that several residents continued to go out of their homes despite the ECQ in the city.

Retired Army general Melquiades Feliciano, who has been appointed as chief implementer for the Visayas of the National Action Plan Against Covid-19, said the suspension of ECQ passes was ordered by Año to emphasize how the ECQ should be implemented.

“Out of the 99,000 households, there were more than 200,000 quarantine passes that were issued. Probably there should be a correction on this,” said Feliciano.

“In Manila, where there was this implementation of ECQ, it was stricter there. It really helped to prevent and manage the spread of the virus. That’s why Manila continued to have that decline in the Covid infections, and Manila was declared as GCQ (general community quarantine). So Secretary Año wants to duplicate that here,” Feliciano said.

Lockdowns, border controls

Aside from clustering of barangays, granular lockdowns will be implemented at the barangay level instead of shutting down the entire city, Cimatu said.

He said he informed barangay captains about this during their meeting Wednesday afternoon.

To help contain the virus, Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia said border controls will be imposed again effective 12:01 a.m. of June 27.

“The entry to the Province of Cebu coming from Cebu City will be severely restricted,” said Garcia.

Checkpoints will be set up at the border with Talisay City in the south, Mandaue City in the north and Balamban town in the west.

Garcia, though, emphasized that authorized and essential individuals are still allowed to get past these checkpoints.

Garcia said this is not “to make life harder, but in order to contain the spread of the virus.”

Garcia cited that in the past 23 days that the Province opened its borders and eased restrictions, Covid-19 cases in the province have tripled.

With border controls, she hoped that cases will stop rising.

Augmentation force

A day after Cimatu arrived in Cebu City on Tuesday, the local police received augmentation forces from other provinces and regions.

More than 400 police officers from other units were deployed in Cebu City on Wednesday, June 24.

Cebu City Police Office Officer-in-charge Cydric Earl Tamayo said these additional personnel will help conduct checkpoints and patrol in interior portions of barangays.

Tamayo said they will arrest ECQ violators.

Labella said a number of ECQ violators were apprehended by the Cebu City Covid Action Team headed by Raquel Arce, Prevention, Restoration, Order, Beautification and Enhancement (Probe) chief.

“There are also many violators of the minimum protocol that they are supposed to stay home unless the purpose of going out is to buy food or medicine,” said Labella.

Labella urged the public to visit him at his office at the Cebu City Hall if they think law enforcers erred in apprehending them.

“If there are really violations of the law enforcement, come to my office and we will act accordingly,” he said.

He said evidence must also be presented.

He appealed to the public to follow the minimum health protocols so the City could soon shift to general community quarantine and businesses could reopen.

“We cannot always be under ECQ. Jobs would be affected,” said Labella.

“We have to sacrifice because this is all for us. Let’s follow the protocols. Let’s follow the health standards,” he said. (JJL, PAC, WBS, BBT)