ROUGHLY three out of five, or 60 percent, of new infections in Cebu City in the last five days were traced to the workplace, presenting new challenges in the battle against Covid-19 and prompting the Emergency Operations Center in Cebu City to shift their focus to the business sector.
In an interview Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, Emergency Operations Center (EOC) chief implementer Melquiades Feliciano said they were coordinating with the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) in ensuring workplace safety and tapping the Business Permit and Licensing Office at the Cebu City Hall in reaching out to the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
Feliciano said Cebu City now qualifies for the more relaxed modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) because of the slower case growth and reduced capacity utilization rate. But he remained cautious.
“I’m confident, but always apprehensive. Every day is a challenge,” he said.
He said household transmission of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) has slowed down in Cebu City, with the Department of Health (DOH) 7 reporting only seven new infections on Monday, Aug. 17.
This was the lowest single-day tally since he arrived on June 23 to assist Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, who was appointed as overseer of the Covid-19 response in Cebu City.
Data from the DOH 7 show that in the past five days (Aug. 13-17), Cebu City saw a total of 101 new cases, with the lowest recorded on Aug. 17 at seven and the highest on Aug. 14 at 29.
This is a vast improvement from the situation in June and July, when new cases every single day reached hundreds, Feliciano said.
As of Aug. 17, Cebu City had a total of 9,390 cases, including 1,389 active cases, 7,379 recoveries and 622 deaths.
The capacity utilization rate, or the proportion of Covid-19 beds and ventilators being used in healthcare facilities, has been reduced to less than 30 percent, placing Cebu City in the safe zone in terms of critical care.
At the peak of the epidemic in the city in the third week of June until the first week of July, the capacity utilization rate averaged 80 percent.
From workplace to household
However, Feliciano said they have also noticed an increase in workplace transmission. In the last five days, he said about 60 percent of the new infections came from the workplace.
“It’s now workplace to household transmission,” he said.
A hotel and a business process outsourcing firm occupying one floor of an office building were among those locked down after some employees tested positive for Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.
Feliciano said there were also some bank personnel who had contracted the virus.
Establishments with virus-positive employees are immediately closed for disinfection per government protocol.
Feliciano said they have been coordinating with CCCI to ensure that safety measures are being undertaken in workplaces as economic activities gradually resume.
The EOC has also tapped the Cebu City Government’s BPLO because it has a database on the MSMEs operating in the city.
“Just this morning, they (BPLO) presented a plan on how to reach out to the MSMEs,” Feliciano said.
He said the BPLO has listed around 6,000 MSMEs that have resumed operations since quarantine measures were eased in Cebu City on Aug. 1. Cebu City is under general community quarantine (GCQ), a less stringent quarantine level, until Aug. 31.
How to reach out to MSMEs in the informal economy, however, remains a concern since these businesses are not registered, Feliciano admitted.
On Monday, Aug. 17, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) reminded employers of their responsibility to report to their host local government units (LGUs) any positive cases among their employees to facilitate contact tracing and monitoring.
CCCI president Felix Taguiam said they have been informing their members of workplace safety protocols in their series of webinars and telling them to report to LGUs their workers who are found positive for Covid-19. (See full story in Business section.)
Steven Yu, president of the Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the new infections could not have originated from the workplace since most businesses have just reopened.
He said infected employees may have contracted the virus in their communities.
Yu, however, agreed that employers should report to LGUs the positive cases in their workplace to ensure contact tracing and treatment.
Philippine Retailers Association Cebu Chapter spokesperson Robert Go said there is a high possibility that the virus transmission comes from heavily populated barangays rather than the workplace. (with JOB)