'0' COVID LABEL. Cebu City Councilor Joel Garganera, who is also IATF deputy chief implementer of the anti-Covid-19 campaign in Cebu City, announced Saturday, August 22, there were already 36 barangays in the city that the national task force considers "Covid-free."
The number went down to 34 by Tuesday, August 25: four barangays that have had no reported cases since the outbreak in January -- namely, Taptap, Paril, Sudlon and Buot -- plus 30 other barangays. As of this report, 15 barangays in the lowland and 19 in the highland.
Garganera did not name the 30, without telling the public why. He could be avoiding controversy from possible error in classifying a barangay; actual but unreported cases might be cited by someone who disagrees with the list. The lesson from categorizing drug-free barangays must still be fresh among LGU leaders.
BASIS FOR CATEGORY. Garganera told SunStar Tuesday a barangay lands in the "O-Covid" list if it has no case of infection in the past two weeks or 14 days.
Dr. Peter Clayton, a member of the University of the Philippines Pandemic Response Team, in an August 4 tweet, said only Batanes province would qualify as "Covid-free." Using these as bases: 1) zero active cases and 2) no cases since the start of the outbreak in the country last March. The zero-from-the-beginning record of Batanes may be compared to that of the four "virgin" barangays in Cebu City. Clayton relied on Data Drop of the Department of Health and UP's independent tracker Endcov.ph. Garganera must have used records of DOH at the Cebu City Emergency Center.
The National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP), basing on the DOH tracker, reported last April 22 that 26 out of 81 provinces in the country were "Covid-free." In Central Visayas, Siquijor was included.
NO REASON TO BE "COMPLACENT." Being tagged "0 Covid" does not guarantee against new or returning cases of infection. Siquijor, clean for six months, recently reported two cases, from natives who came back from travel.
Being islands, Siquijor and Batanes have been isolated from the flood of people in urban centers. The geographical location has helped but, added to that, must be early lockdown and coordination of government agencies, which Batanes Governor Marilou Cayco said last August 16 local leaders must include in their host of initiatives and practices against the pandemic.
SAME CQ RULES. Being listed as a "Covid-free" barangay does not remove it from the rest of the area of the GCQ'd Cebu City. The same general quarantine rules, Garganera said, which govern the other barangays, will apply to "0 Covid" barangay.
Garganera sees it as "more of a responsibility of maintaining status quo (on the excellent health situation) than an achievement." Barangay captains may partly disagree, since good leadership is needed to keep the epidemic at bay. In the city, for example, the mayor was blamed for the period when its status reverted to ECQ and MECQ status, like Cebu's sick man, and Cebuanos embarrassed on the national stage by the label "hard-headed and stubborn."
Anyway as to reward for deserving barangays and their leaders, Garganera told SunStar, "we're looking at that, (for) it's really something to celebrate and we congratulate the barangays..." He talked achieving "sustainability... to keep the curve flattened."
That's why the safeguards are not relaxed; the tools, like segmented lockdowns, will be used when needed, said Garganera who obviously, as active task force participant, has honed the skill of disaster response on top of his main job of lawmaking.