DOH 7: Region most likely to retain quarantine status

·6 min read

THE Department of Health (DOH) 7 remains confident that despite the rise in coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases in Central Visayas, the community quarantine classification of the region, particularly Cebu City, will remain the same, as cases remain manageable and hospitals are not “overwhelmed” with Covid patients.

“Our goal is to maintain our quarantine status. Just because we said that we are experiencing a wave doesn’t mean our quarantine status will automatically escalate,” Dr. Eugenia Mercedes Cañal, head of the DOH 7 Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit, told SunStar Cebu in a mix of English and Cebuano on Sunday, July, 11, 2021.

In Central Visayas, only Negros Oriental is under modified enhanced community quarantine until July 15. Cebu, Bohol and Siquijor are under modified general community quarantine, the lowest form of community quarantine.

On Saturday, July 10, the DOH 7 said the region was riding the “third wave” of the Covid-19 pandemic after it monitored that Covid cases were going up in the last four weeks.

However, Cañal said the number of cases is not the only basis when assigning the appropriate quarantine classification for a local government unit (LGU). Other factors, such as its critical care utilization rate (CCUR), are also evaluated.

In Cebu City, where majority of level 3 hospitals are located, the CCUR is 37 percent, or significantly within the 60 percent “safe level.”

However, Cañal said members of the public should not be complacent. They should also not panic over the term “wave” since it describes a rise in the number of cases.

She said a wave is just a pattern of peaks in an epidemiologic curve.

“It’s not a wave in a sense that in one setting there are 1,000 cases recorded. It’s a wave because when you graph it, it has peaks. It has an upward trend. That’s how we describe increasing numbers,” she said.

She said cases started to rise in late May, but it was not as bad as the increase recorded from February to March this year. She said it’s too early to say if the increase will equal the “second wave” recorded in the early months of the year.

The first wave was reported in May 2020 when cases in Cebu City briefly surpassed the number of cases in Quezon City.

Public cooperation

“Even if we have a fourth or fifth wave or simply an increase in cases, if we have to do away with the term ‘wave’ so as not to inject fear, since we see it like a pattern every after four months, the same case management and public health measures will still apply,” she said in a mix of English and Cebuano.

She said there is a need for the public to continue adhering to health and safety measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

“If the individuals will not cooperate with the LGU, then all efforts will fail,” she added.

The sentiment was echoed by the Cebu City Emergency Operations Center (EOC), which assured that it can control the spread of the infection but only if the public cooperates.

City Councilor Joel Garganera, EOC deputy chief implementer, said the situation is still manageable since measures like contact tracing, swabbing and isolating positive patients have always been in place. But if cases continue to rise, it can be “suffocating and draining” to frontliners, he said.

As of July 10, Cebu City had 940 active cases of which almost 100 are hospitalized, he said.

Garganera pointed out that there are still plenty of beds available in the City’s isolation centers.

The Cebu City Quarantine Center has 104 beds available; barangay isolation centers (BICs), 128 beds; and quarantine hotels, 28.

Garganera said there are three BICs on standby with a total bed capacity of 400.

He also appealed to the public not to let its guard down.

“It’s our behavior that will decide the course of this pandemic,” he said.

While Central Visayas and some areas in Mindanao are seeing a sustained increase in infections, daily Covid-19 cases have continued to decline nationwide.

Based on the DOH case bulletins, the seven-day moving average of new cases nationwide declined to around 5,250 as of Sunday, July 11, from nearly 5,500 on July 4 and around 5,600 on June 27.

In its case bulletin Sunday, the DOH reported 5,916 new infections, which brought the total case count to 1,473,025. Ten duplicates, including six recoveries, were removed from the count.

Three laboratories failed to submit their data to the Covid-19 Document Repository System on July 9, bringing the testing output down to 47,070 compared to around 50,000 a day in the last three days.

The daily positivity rate was 11.4 percent, less than 12 percent for 13 consecutive days.

The DOH also reported 105 additional deaths, including 53 cases that were previously tagged as recoveries but were found to be deaths upon final validation, and 6,127 recoveries.

94.9 percent recovery

The additional mortalities raised the Covid-19 death toll in the country to 25,921. The case fatality rate remained at 1.76 percent for the fifth straight day.

Total recoveries now stand at 1,397,403, or 94.9 percent of the total case count.

There remained 49,701 active cases in hospitals and isolation facilities nationwide, comprising 3.4 percent of the total count.

Globally, more than 186 million individuals have contracted the virus and over 4.02 million had died from the disease, according to the Johns Hopkins University Covid-19 dashboard.

In a media briefing on July 9, infectious disease epidemiologist Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove said they noted a 16.7 percent increase in cases in Africa in the last seven days, a 16.4 percent increase in the Eastern Mediterranean region, a 33 percent increase across Europe, 8.6 percent increase in Southeast Asia and 10 percent increase in the Western Pacific region, under which the Philippines has been classified.

She also said there are more than two dozen countries that have epidemic curves that are almost vertical right now, which means that there have been a sustained increase in their Covid-19 cases.

“This is not the situation we should be in when we have the tools at hand,” said Kerkhove, who is the WHO technical lead for Covid-19.

She cited four major factors that are driving transmission worldwide.

The first three are the virus itself and its variants with increased transmissibility, increasing social mixing and mobility, and reduced or inappropriate use of public health safety and social measures, and she pointed out that safety and social measures do not necessarily mean lockdowns.

“It’s a combination of interventions at the individual level to the community level, and it covers everything from wearing of masks, physical distancing, (and) avoiding crowded indoor spaces,” she added.

She urged the public to spend more time outdoors instead of indoors, improve ventilation and keep hands clean.

The fourth factor is the inequitable and uneven distribution of vaccines, Kerkhove said.

As of July 11, over 3.4 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins tracker.

The bulk of vaccine recipients, however, are in the rich countries which cornered the vaccine supply. (MVI, WBS, JJL / SunStar Philippines)

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