EXPLAINER: What caused spike of infections in Cebu City: parties, gatherings, rise of 'Covid-like' cases. Mayor plays down border control. Garganera: 'We don't like lockdowns."

Pachico A. Seares
·4 min read

THE ASSURANCES FIRST, from the public officials in charge of managing the campaign against the Covid-18 plague, during a press-con Monday, November 16:

[1] DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu, whom President Rodrigo Duterte has assigned as overseer in Cebu on the coronavirus crisis, said "old measures were improved and new ones introduced" and they are "all in place."

[2] Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella, emphasizing that the information came not from him and from the city's Emergency Operations Center (EOC), said it is not a "second wave" of Covid-19, as feared by a number of people.

[3] Councilor Joel Garganera, IATF deputy chief implementer for the city and EOC head, blamed people's behavior, such as partying ("drinking and eating sprees") and other gatherings, and also cited the rise of non-Covid but Covid-like cases such as dengue at the this time of the year, workplace transmissions, and nine pregnant women who took swab tests.

THE SPIKE OR SURGE -- as they referred to the increase of positive cases last November 15 to 292 after 30 new cases were added on that day -- marked the sixth consecutive day that Cebu City recorded double digits of up to 13 in its daily number of confirmed infections.

EOC noted 1.25 percent to 1.5 percent positivity rate in October, or a daily average of 7.38 patients. Then the six-day increase topped, wham, by the fat 30 last November 15.

It was a spike or surge but not a second wave? The occasional spike or surge is erratic and can come sporadically, or so the EOC, through Garganera, makes the public understand. A second or third wave is like the first assault of coronavirus in December 2019, then whipping up strength in February and March, subsequently raging through the succeeding months of April to July, then subsiding up to October.

Would there be a second or even a third wave? The Spanish flu, experts say, swept the world in three waves in 1918, with the second wave turning out to be more deadly than the first.

CONTROL MEASURES. Councilor Garganera said the new cases as of November 15 were isolated, treated, and contact-traced. A number of the positive cases are hospitalized but many of them are asymptomatic and preferred the stay in the hospital to an isolation center.

Neither Cimatu, who flew in Monday, November 16, and presided the press-con with the mayor, nor Garganera disclosed the new measures referred to by the retired general.

The assurances of Cimatu and the councilor, along with Mayor Labella's, that the situation was manageable and managed, were capped with the familiar pitch of "don't be complacent, continue to observe health protocols." They were expected to make Cebuanos less restive after news of a new lockdown gripped city residents towards the weekend.

CHILLING POSSIBILITY OF LOCKDOWN, following several weeks since September when the city was under MGCQ, or modified general quarantine, which is supposedly the least restrictive, seems to affect city residents more than the threat of floods.

Cimatu "inserted" at the press-con the result his inquiry into obstructions at a creek in the city where a boy drowned last month but that did not seem to arouse interest among Cebuanos.

(He said he and the mayor agreed to seek the legal removal of the structures that violate the law on easement at waterways.)

Comments on the live-streamed event centered more on the lockdown threat and possible return to ECQ. One compared the present situation to a city-wide detention. Another cited the further damage on small businesses.

"NOT REALLY BORDER CONTROL." Councilor Garganera, who first raised the threat of new restrictions, played down lockdowns by saying they've been doing them even under MGCQ but they are limited to a sitio or household.. "We don't like lockdowns," he said, as if their dislike for them would reduce the harshness.

Mayor Labella minimized his order for return of border control, effective 5:01 a.m. Monday, November 16, by saying it is "not really border control," just seeing to it that the authorized persons who cross from the province to Cebu City and vice versa are out for the claimed work or other essential purpose.

Labella said we don't want to go back to ECQ "so we should still be aware that the virus is still available." Garganera considered the incident and the city's response "a wake-up call."