SOME members of the technical advisory council of the Department of Health central office have recommended placing Cebu under enhanced community quarantine due to the rising number of Covid-19 cases and the reported Sars-CoV-2 mutations, or “mutations of concern.”
However, the DOH 7 leadership has appealed to the council to give them time to review its data, according to DOH 7 spokesperson and chief pathologist Dr. Mary Jean Loreche.
Local business leaders slammed the idea of placing Cebu under ECQ status, saying there should be a balance between health and livelihood. ECQ is the strictest community quarantine status as it restricts public movement and transportation, and would close non-essentail commercial establishments (cinemas, entertainment hubs and tourism destinations).
In a meeting with the DOH central office’s technical advisory council (TAC) on Friday, Feb. 19, 2021, the DOH 7 was given until Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, to address the current Covid-19 situation in Cebu so it could keep to keep its modified general community quarantine status (MGCQ) status, Loreche said.
Not yet official
Loreche, however, clarified that the recommendation of some TAC members is not yet official as they have still to meet on Friday, Feb. 26, to go over the matter.
“The data they used did not synchronize with our data. That is why on Friday I am presenting our data,” she said.
On Sunday, Feb. 21, the DOH central office with the University of the Philippines (UP) Philippine Genome Center and UP National Institutes of Health announced that N501Y and E484K mutations of concern (MOC) were detected in three additional samples from Central Visayas following an enhanced genomic biosurveillance.
According to Loreche, it would be unfair for Central Visayas to be the only region monitored because of the presence of MOC, a term coined by local health authorities describing detected mutations of Sars-CoV-2 (the virus that causes Covid-19) that are under investigation.
“Because we did the biosurveillance, it doesn’t mean na dapat ay tayo lang ang tutukan at sasabihan na ang MOC ay nasa atin lang at dapat ay i-lock tayo, restrict ang travel para hindi natin madala sa iba (that our place should be the only one monitored and we should be told that the MOC is found only in our place and we should be put in a lockdown, travel restriction to prevent us from carrying it to other places),” Loreche said.
She added, “I don’t think that’s fair.”
To recall, Cebu City and Talisay City decried the quarantine classification made by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases on their respective local government units in June 2020 based on “incorrect data.”
Talisay City was placed under modified ECQ, when other places in Cebu province registered more cases but remained under GCQ.
Loreche said they will meet with leaders of local government units (LGUs) to urge them to reimplement stricter quarantine protocol to control the spread of the virus.
Cebu City breached the 3,000 mark on Covid-19 active cases on Sunday, Feb. 21 with 3,142 cases. The last time Cebu City hit 3,000 active cases was on July 31, 2020 when it had 3,292 active cases.
On Monday, Feb. 22, Cebu City’s active cases further increased to 3,176 with 184 new cases, 147 recoveries and three deaths, according to the DOH 7 bulletin.
Loreche said they already expected the rise in the number of new cases because of the lighter community quarantine status (MGCQ), recent holidays, and the continued contact tracing and testing efforts.
The DOH 7, she said, still does not recommend placing Cebu under a lockdown as this will greatly affect Cebu’s economy. Instead, she advised the public to follow health protocol such as wearing masks and observing social distancing at all times for everyone’s safety.
“For people to be mindful it is an individual responsibility to protect himself. It’s not the government’s job to protect you, to implement and restrict yourself so that you will be able to fight off Covid. It should be you, me, kitang tanan maningkamot ta na dili ta makakuha sa virus; nga dili ta makatakod sa atong mga pinalangga sa kinabuhi nato (we should all strive hard not to contract the virus and not to infect our loved ones),” she said.
Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia earlier expressed her strong opposition to placing Cebu under lockdown.
“Don’t mess with us. We can take care of ourselves. I will not and never again accept lockdown. I will fight for Cebu and the Cebuano because Cebu is moving on and moving forward,” Garcia warned.
She said measures are already in place against Covid-19 transmission and the LGUs under the Provincial Government’s scope have devised a system to keep infections in check. Isolation centers have been established and contact tracers have been hired, among others.
“Lockdowns don’t work well. They work against the economy. They disrupt the economy to the detriment of the poor,” Garcia said.
On Feb. 21, 2021, Central Visayas recorded 431 new Covid-19 cases. Cebu City recorded the highest new cases in the region with 255, bringing its total active cases to 3,142. Of the 3,142 active cases, 2,795 were asymptomatic, 150 mild, 116 moderate, 67 severe, and 14 critically ill. Cebu City’s attack rate was 24.8 percent, the highest recorded attack rate in the city.
The region on Feb. 22 recorded 384 new cases and 299 recoveries, bringing its total active cases to 6,276. The six new deaths reported on Feb. 22 brought the toll to 1,536.
As for Cebu City’s 3,000-plus active cases, City Councilor Joel Garganera said the situation is “alarming.”
“Yes, this is indeed alarming, which is why we require the utmost cooperation from the public,” Garganera said on Feb. 22.
He added: “We cannot afford for our hospitals to be overwhelmed once more. That is why I encourage everyone to limit your movements to necessary activities only.”
Garganera declined to comment on the TAC members recommending to place Cebu, including Cebu City, under ECQ.
However, the councilor said in an earlier statement that Cebu City cannot afford to be on lockdown again and everyone “must learn to live with Covid.”
Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Steven Yu opposed the ECQ recommendation, saying it would hurt the local economy.
“We are all-out against ECQ because there are other tools/means available without resorting to lockdowns. Our healthcare capability and capacity have also strengthened considerably. We have to move on and move forward, to bring back livelihood to the people and build back the strong pre-pandemic economy,” he said.
Rey Calooy, chairman of the Filipino Cebuano Business Club, said stricter restrictions would further devastate the current situation of micro, small and medium businesses.
“Some of the small ones operate daily just to earn income so they can eat for the day. Hand to mouth. Of course, rich people and people with stable jobs are only fighting Covid-19. But the MSMEs? They are fighting both Covid-19 and hunger,” he said.
Calooy said: “We are consistent with our stand that our lives are our livelihood. How can you live without eating? And how can you eat without livelihood? That is very simple logic.”
Cebu City barangays
The Cebu City barangays that have no reported transmission of Covid-19 cases for the past 10 days are down to nine barangays.
Garganera said 71 barangays in the city have current transmission of Covid-19.
Based on Emergency Operations Center (EOC) data, Barangay Guadalupe continued to have the most number of logged cases for the past 10 days, from Feb. 12 to Feb. 21, with 217.
Other barangays which logged the most number of Covid-19 cases for the past 10 days include Barangays Labangon with 126, Tisa with 108, Lahug with 93, and Apas with 85 cases.
Cebu City is composed of 80 barangays, with only two barangays remaining to have no reported Covid-19 case since the coronavirus pandemic started last year.
In a press conference of the DOH 7 on Monday afternoon, Feb. 22, Loreche said the critical care utilization rate in the whole region for private hospitals is at 47.6 percent while in public hospitals is at 58.7 percent.
EOC data also showed that in isolation facilities in Cebu City, there are still a total of 1,122 available beds as of Feb. 21.
At New Normal Oasis for Adaptation and a Home (Noah), 235 beds are occupied while 215 are still available.
In other facilities, 87 beds at IC3 Bayanihan Center are occupied, 43 beds remain available; 156 beds are occupied at Cebu City Quarantine Center, four beds remain available; 412 beds are occupied in barangay isolation centers, 850 beds remain unoccupied; 192 beds are occupied in accredited hotels in the city, while 10 beds remain unoccupied.