EXPLAINER: Cebu may stay at GCQ or revert to ‘enhanced’ status after June 15. Cebu Province might be lumped with Cebu City.

Pachico A. Seares

HOW THEY SEE CEBU. Two strong indications that Cebu’s current category of general quarantine may not be downgraded in the next phase of June 16-30 or may even be returned to enhanced quarantine:

[1] The University of the Philippines forecast on Covid-19 of June 8, posted on June 12, which says the rate of infection (reproduction number or Ro) in Cebu province at almost 2 “classifies it as a high-risk area, which means the Covid-19 virus is still spreading in the province.”

A cause of concern, the forecast says, for the national government and the local government of Cebu. The UP panel led by Dr. Guido David recommends that the government reviews its health protocols for Cebu (along with National Capital Region).

Any easing of quarantine must be “matched with tighter monitoring, stricter social distancing, and wearing of masks and other protective equipment and increased testing and surveillance...” Without them, continued relaxation of restrictions “may lead to the pandemic getting out of control.”

[2] Dr. Tony Leachon, adviser to Carlito Galvez, chief implementor of the national government’s plan of action on Covid-19, posted Thursday. June 11 noted the steep rise of cases in Cebu City: 2,549, as against Quezon City’s 2,519 and Manila’s 1,611. Cebu City is No. 1 in number of cases per million, Leachon said, and the “epicenter” of coronavirus in the country.

He also noted that the Cebu hospitals are overwhelmed with Covid cases (“Hindi na halos makapag-admit...”). No numbers are given and no information about admissions at Cebu City’s quarantine and isolation centers. The “critical utilization rate” of hospitals and other health facilities is crucial indicator of the extent of contagion.

PROVINCE, CITIES LUMPED AS CEBU. The UP June 8 forecast tags “the province of Cebu” as “the second major battleground” in the fight against Covid-19. Noting that the reproduction number Ro decreased to below 1 by May 20, the UP report noted “a surge in new cases and increased testing have caused the value of Ro to increase again to 2, which puts “the province of Cebu” in the high risk classification once again.

If the value of Ro keeps up, the UP panel said, its forecast “for Cebu province” shows 11,000 cases and 90 deaths by June 30.

The UP report says “the province of Cebu, specifically the metropolitan areas,” will need “to implement measures to reduce community transmission and control the spread” of Covid-19.

While the entire Cebu is under GCQ, the province has long prepared to shift to modified general quarantine; it even set June 12, last Friday, as the day for starting MGCQ, Capitol’s symbolic declaration of independence. It’s application to IATF in effect says that Cebu province is not similarly situated as Cebu City and must be treated differently.

IT’S IATF’S CALL. Apparently, UP lumps the province with all the cities of Cebu, which is not the situation, as Capitol has been moving ahead of Cebu City in containing the coronavirus. Governor Gwen Garcia had even expressed impatience over the province being weighed down by the premier city’s load of Covid-19 cases, calling it the epicenter of the epidemic. Last Thursday, Dr. Leachon confirmed the “epicenter” title.

The Inter-Agency Task Force on Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID), with President Duterte’s approval, makes the call. Not the UP group, whose previous (No. 9) forecast seeing further transmission in Cebu was virtually ignored by IATF. Not even Dr. Leachon who influences the chief implementer who submits to the collegial decision of the task force.

IT GOES ON. Contagion of coronavirus has continued, notably in NCR and Cebu, more particularly in the island’s metropolitan areas.

There may be no further easing of restrictions yet; it may even be tightened. Governor Garcia aims for modified GCQ, while Mayor Labella aims for staying at GCQ.

And the health protocols, including “shelter in place” for those below 21 and over 60, will continue for individuals and for local governments to step up testing, contract tracing and treatment. And, notably, communication or clear messaging for those who govern to the governed: the fourth C in the UP panel’s 4 Cs: Collaboration, Coordination, Cooperation and Communication.