THE SITUATION. Cebu City is under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) from July 16 to 31, a slight improvement over its previous ECQ status. Before then, from June 1-15, it stayed at GCQ along with Metro Manila.
When all the other cities in the country moved to general quarantine (GCQ) in the July 1-15 phase, Cebu City returned to ECQ for two weeks before shifting, for the second half of July, to its present MECQ state.
The comforting fact is that the national inter-agency task force (IATF) has focused its attention and, supposedly, resources on Cebu City.
And the disturbing fact with it is that the city looked like the problem child that needed a lot of help. The premier city outside Manila suddenly looked like the only sick city in the country that required intensive care.
Now, while under MECQ, it will adopt the granular or segmental lockdown.
FROM 21 TO 26 - OR 5. Twenty-one barangays, or almost all the city's urban villages, were earlier announced to be placed under "granular lockdown." That befuddled some people: the list of 21 does not show selective targeting; that's more like scattered gunshots. Example: the entire barangay Guadalupe is in the first list.
Last Friday, July 24, Councilor Joel Garganera, deputy chief implementer of the regional AITF operations center, said the 21 listed locations, later increased by to 26, would not be under granular lockdown but would be under "strict quarantine measures."
But on Saturday afternoon, July 25, at a press briefing -- where Mayor Edgardo Labella and a number of councilors sat with representatives from IATF, police, military, DILG, and some barangay captains -- the regional task force chief implementer Melquiades Feliciano, Garganera's chief, said that it would be a granular lockdown, presumably of the 26.
The mayor's executive order (EO 85) though, released on the same day, mentions only five places, which are narrowed down in geographical area and number of people in it.
POWER TO 'SEGMENT.' Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella had called it "segmental" lockdown under the OPAV (office of the presidential adviser for Visayas) Bagong Buhay project.
That was before the IATF experts flew in, when the city was still under GCQ like the rest of Cebu but was soon to revert to ECQ. Roy Cimatu, a retired general and the President's Covid-19 overseer for Cebu, calls it granular. Another IATF speaks of it as "containment zone."
It means localized. In air warfare, it may be compared to pinpoint or surgical bombing, which seeks to limit assault and damage to a specifically targeted area. In surgery, it refers to focusing on a specific part of the body where the cause of disease must be neutralized or removed.
Restrictions on movement and mobility of people are total and thus must be confined to the household, street block, subdivision, compound, sitio, or entire barangay where infectious cases are rampant or high.
In the EO, the city mayor -- "on recommendation of the police, in coordination with barangay captains" -- orders that five places will be placed under total lockdown. On lifting the lockdown, the mayor will recommend to the regional IATF, which can be "carried out only upon the approval" of the said task force.
INITIAL PLACES. Per the mayor's EO, the granular lockdowns will be implemented in these five locations: Sitio Eyha in Barangay Guadalupe; Balaga Drive in Sitio Cekalco in Barangay Labangon; Tuada compound in Barangay Tisa; sitio San Isidro and Abellanosa compound in Barangay Quiot, and Mina extension in Barangay Mabolo. Now, that's segmented or localized. Surgical attack, not shotgun blasts.
The places were recommended by the police "in coordination with the barangays concerned."
HOUSEHOLDS TOO. The EO says "the City reserves the right to place "certain households" under lockdown "as may be feasible and necessary to arrest the continued spread" of coronavirus.
The lockdown will be from three to 14 days, during which tracing and swab tests will be conducted. Those found positive will be relocated to an isolation or quarantine center or a hospital, depending upon extent of the infection.
Major effects of a localized lockdown: all individuals are required to stay at home; leaving and entering the locked-down area shall be "absolutely prohibited," with quarantine passes suspended and APORs or previously authorized persons no longer allowed to go outside their residences.
The EO was to take effect immediately but City Hall may delay its implementation "until (our) resources are ready."
SUPPLIES FROM CITY. Food and other basic necessities shall be provided by the City Government, Labella's EO says. Medicines and other needs shall be coursed through the barangays.
The matter of giving the people under lockdown basic provisions underscores the importance of trimming the list of places granularly locked down. The city cannot or may not give free provisions for entire barangays when the plan calls for only some identified areas.
Some barangay captains might wish to include many areas of their barangays to take advantage of the bounty from City Hall. Besides, it would strain resources of the police and military in enforcing wide swaths of porous territory, thus defeating the purpose of segmented attention on the public health crisis.
THE THEORIES. The theoretical benefit of granular or segmental lockdown is that the spread of Covid-19 will be confined to the affected area, where the disease can be treated.
That assumes the infected patients will be tested, identified, isolated and treated, their contacts traced and similarly handled, thus stopping the transmission. Plus, the essential component often neglected or inadequately given: food and medicine for the people "imprisoned" in their homes.
At the same time, it allows the rest of the barangay, along with neighboring barangays, in the city to resume work or business. Which is another theory that depends on the capacity of the city to meet the other requirements of combating the coronavirus: the three Ts (testing, tracing and treating) and the support facilities, such as testing labs, tracing crews, isolation centers, and hospitals.
HARMONIZING RULES. Thus Cebu City is now under modified enhanced (ME) quarantine, with at least five initial areas specified and placed under segmental lockdown.
The potential problem is whether police, military and barangay "tanods" know or would bother to know the difference. Given past incidents at checkpoints and places where people go outside their residence and are stopped by the enforcers, one can expect situations where wrong reading of the rules may lead to distrust and hostility of residents.
Barangay captains can help but many of them may still need instruction on what granular lockdown means. If the several CQs already bewilder and befuddle, the new kind of lockdown may be just another source of confusion.