Editorial: Locking down Cebu City

·2 min read

An exponential rise in the number of coronavirus disease cases in Cebu City amid an ongoing pandemic is indeed a cause for alarm, enough to warrant a warning from the chief implementer of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), which was created to strengthen management of the City’s Covid response.

According to City Councilor Joel Garganera, if the public continues to disregard quarantine protocols, the city may again be placed under enhanced community quarantine before the end of November.

But are the numbers enough to justify putting the brakes on an economy that has just been given the jumpstart?

On Nov. 6, 2020, the city, with a population of almost a million people, logged just four cases. Over the next five days, the number fluctuated, albeit slightly, until it more than doubled to 28 cases on Nov. 11.

Garganera has reason to be wary. He and Mayor Edgardo Labella have been urging the public not to be complacent when the number of cases started to go down.

The former doesn’t want the scenario in some countries in Europe, where the resurgence in the number of Covid cases has almost overwhelmed their health care system, to happen here.

In this regard, the EOC and the City Government will need the help of barangays to ensure that residents continue to comply with minimum health standards.

Barangays are better equipped to monitor their movement so that only those who possess quarantine passes and have legitimate reasons are actually outdoors. Barangays must also strictly implement the curfew, which is still in effect.

However, it is unfair to place all the burden of keeping the public safe on the government if the very people it is trying to protect refuse to cooperate.

The EOC has noted that more people have been going outside to attend gatherings, which are still prohibited while the city is on quarantine, while some residents in mountain barangays -- far from the clutches of authorities -- have let their guard down.

In hindsight, the key to weathering the current health crisis has always been the strict enforcement of existing protocol. Imposing a lockdown should be a last resort. The local government unit and frontliners need to weigh things carefully between livelihood and the lives of the people before reaching a decision, one that is based on “evidence and science” and not on perceived threat.

Otherwise, Cebu City will be seen as moving two steps forward, only to move one step back.