DOH 7: Region experiencing 3rd wave of Covid pandemic

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CENTRAL Visayas is currently riding the third wave of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, according to the Department of Health (DOH) 7 on Saturday, July 10, 2021.

“Yes. We are in a third wave now. We have been monitoring the cases for the last four weeks in Central Visayas, not just Cebu City, and our epidemic curve shows an upward trend,” said Dr. Eugenia Mercedes Cañal, head of the DOH 7 Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit.

The first wave was reported in May last year, particularly when cases in Cebu City briefly surpassed that of Quezon City.

The second wave happened in the early months of this year, according to the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas.

On Friday, July 9, Central Visayas logged a total of 564 new Covid-19 cases, which brought its total number of active cases to 8,295.

Negros Oriental recorded the most number of active cases with 3,639, followed by Bohol with 2,244; Cebu City with 1,005; Cebu Province with 701; Lapu-Lapu City with 380; Mandaue City with 306; and Siquijor with 20.

Among the factors that contributed to the increase in cases is the natural evolution of the virus as it naturally mutates resulting in different variants, which also increases the virus’ transmissibility, Cañal said.

She also included “social mixing” as people gather together in events like birthdays, weddings and fiestas, among others.

“These events drive the transmission because you bring people together without observing public health measures,” she said.

She pointed out violations of public health and social measures like the non-wearing of masks, spending more time indoors, poor ventilation and non-washing of hands.

She also included the “inequitable and uneven” distribution of vaccines.

Dr. Van Philip Baton, DOH 7 medical program coordinator, however, said this is not an issue of allocation but access to the vaccine.

“The limited vaccine supply has resulted in the most exposed and most vulnerable being prioritized,” he said.

“However, those who need it the most are also taking their time in getting vaccinated. The goal of vaccination is to protect the limited resources: limited beds and limited manpower,” he said.

Baton said vaccines have been shown to be effective in preventing symptomatic cases that result in hospital admissions and prolonged hospital stay.

Thus, the increasing cases should underscore the need to protect those who need it immediately, he said.

“As we have seen, the number of senior citizens in the region (who have been vaccinated) has not reached even 25 percent after more than two months of rolling out vaccination for them,” he said.

He emphasized the need to vaccinate those who are prone to Covid infection like frontline workers who directly look after Covid patients and those who are the most vulnerable in the community.

He also reminded those who have been vaccinated to continue practicing minimum public health protocols and to continue to be vigilant when going out for work or for leisure.

“We owe it to ourselves to protect those we love with the means we are given,” he said.

In Cebu, a total of 110,169 eligible individuals have already received their complete two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine as of Friday.

Another 243,809 others are waiting for their second dose.

Based on the data from all public and private vaccination centers in Cebu, Cebu City has administered 181,622 doses with 53,500 individuals fully vaccinated. Mandaue City has administered 97,891 doses with 17,671 individuals receiving both doses. In Lapu-Lapu City, 36,771 doses have been administered with 8,097 individuals receiving both doses, while in Cebu Province, 139,776 doses have been administered with 30,911 individuals receiving both doses.

Meanwhile, Cebu City Councilor Joel Garganera, deputy chief implementer of the City’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), said they are not inclined “to relax” policies and restrictions as Covid-19 cases continue to rise.

Garganera said the EOC wants to bring down the number of cases this July before relaxing protocol on age restrictions.

The Inter-Agency Task Force issued a resolution on Friday, July 9, allowing children five years old and above to go out in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) and modified GCQ. The resolution, though, does not allow children to go inside malls and other mixed use indoor/outdoor buildings and facilities.

“Just like what we did with the archdiocese, mortuaries and the like, we’re asking for this month of July that we don’t relax (for the public not to let their guard down),” he said.

Garganera said the City was on its way to easing restrictions when cases started to go up.

Based on the EOC data on July 9, cases climbed again to 883 after the City recorded 111 new cases.

Cebu City, which has a population of almost one million, has recorded a total of 26,315 Covid-19 cases with 886 fatalities.

The current positivity rate is 8.32 percent out of the 316,110 Covid-19 tests conducted. That is beyond the World Health Organization threshold, which is five percent, he said.

Garganera said the critical care occupancy in the hospitals has also gone up.

As of Thursday, July 8, the critical care occupancy rate in 14 hospitals was 32.7 percent, up from 21 percent in the past few months.

“Every data that we are monitoring shows an increasing trend,” Garganera said.

The EOC has identified some factors that caused the number of cases to go up, one of which is travelers from other islands docking in Cebu City ports, which can greatly bloat the number of positive cases in the city.

Garganera also said that since the EOC task force Facebook page was launched, it has received many complaints against public transportation like overloading and failing to follow health protocols.

Other factors include an increase in social gatherings, as well as the belief that once vaccinated, individuals can no longer contract Covid-19, he said.

He said the EOC is closely monitoring the situation and is doing its best to arrest the spread of the virus.

To do that, it needs public cooperation, Garganera said. People must not be complacent and they must continue to observe health protocols, he added. (WBS, JJL)

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