Editorial: In the dark

ONE thing residents of Cebu City know is that the city is once again on enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

For two weeks, they were lulled into thinking that things were slowly going back to normal only to have their reverie broken by the harsh reality that the city was and still is firmly in the grips of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel was suddenly snuffed out and residents of Cebu City were back in the dark.

On Tuesday night, June 23, 2020, the Philippine National Police issued a memorandum that canceled the validity of the 250,000 ECQ passes in the city. According to the memo that was posted on social media, the passes would only be valid until 10 p.m.

The announcement caught many off-guard. It didn’t provide enough time for people to prepare themselves for a “hard” lockdown. Those who still had money to buy food and medicines were anxious because they didn’t know what was going on. There were so many questions yet so few answers.

The City Government, which issued the passes, didn’t confirm the news until after midnight with a recorded message from Mayor Edgardo Labella, who said the order came from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

“I ask for your calm and understanding as we work out the details in coordination with the DILG and national agencies,” the mayor said.

On Wednesday, June 24, Labella said he would divide the city’s 80 barangays into clusters and the residents of each cluster would be assigned a day to procure necessities and run errands for the duration of the ECQ.

He said one household would get one pass containing a QR (quick response) code to identify residents of a barangay. That should limit the number of people on the streets while controlling their movements.

At the same time, police personnel and soldiers would patrol the streets to strictly enforce ECQ guidelines.

In the midst of this mobilization, data on Covid-19 cases in the city still don’t synchronize.

In the case of Barangay Sambag 2, the City Government said it has 128 active Covid-19 cases, which, apparently, the Inter-Agency Task Force used as basis to consider placing it on barangay-wide lockdown.

But Sambag 2 Barangay Captain Ryan Aznar pointed out that they only have 75 active cases.

It might be a case of misunderstanding that could have serious repercussions for thousands of people.

The uncertainty of what will happen next and the anxiety over an unseen enemy have already placed many residents on the brink. The continuing lack of clarity on the status of the health crisis may be the nudge to push them over the edge.