UNIVERSITY of the Philippines Diliman-Octa Research, in its first report for August, had recommended that the national government extend by 15 days the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) for Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
A "premature" shifting of its modified ECQ to general quarantine or GCQ might lead to an "uncontrolled growth" of the epidemic. The experts from UP see 210,000 Covid-19 cases by August 31 if MECQ stays imposed. Changing it to GCQ by August 18, it warns, may raise the number to 250,000, a difference of 40,000. (As of August 9, there were 169,000 confirmed cases.)
The extension of MECQ would buy time for "improving tracking, quarantine and isolation procedures," said the UP report, and the public and private sectors to ensure workplaces are safe. That would be on top of "scaled-up testing, tracing, isolation, treatment and health system capability."
Well, President Rodrigo Duterte Monday, August 17, announced that Metro Manila and nearby provinces, among other places (including Cebu City, Mandaue City, Lapu-Lapu City and Talisay City and the two Cebu towns of Minglanilla and Consolacion), would be under GCQ.
The decision disregarded the UP experts advice with respect to Metro Manila. GCQ is more relaxed than MECQ, although health-related conditions were reportedly imposed on the metro's shift to GCQ.
Those terms might stave off what the UP report "predicts." (Researchers say they don't predict; they merely read the data.)
Cebu 'flattened curve'
But here's why the UP-Octa Research report has not been mooted by the IATF and presidential decision about Metro Manila. What the UP experts said about Cebu: "The government should learn from the lessons of Cebu."
Dr. Guido David of UP-Octa Research, a news report said, noted that "Cebu has flattened the curve" after emerging from a stricter lockdown.
By Cebu, UP must refer particularly to Cebu City, which swung -- during the past three months in 15-day stages -- through enhanced quarantine, then to general quarantine, reverted to ECQ, later to MECQ, went back to GCQ and is now staying there, recovering from its wounds and, it seems, unwittingly setting itself as example and supplying "lessons" on how to beat back Covid-19.
Only seven new cases were reported last August 17, the lowest single-day record, bringing the total to 101 new cases in the past five days (August 13-17). A big improvement over the hundreds of cases per day in June and July.
One reason Cebu City is being used as poster city for LGUs in trouble is that it is a much-publicized case where these elements came into play:
 A local government whose citizens were singled out by President Duterte as stubborn and hard-headed (both mean the same thing but the second emphasizes the first);
 Intervention by the national government, through IATF and Duterte, dramatized by the parachuting of a retired general and his staff to the city who "shocked and awed" the locals with orders cancelling or modifying the mayor's orders on a number of quarantine procedures;
 "Success" in the numbers of infections, recoveries, deaths, and available hospital and isolation center bed spaces and equipment for Covid admissions.
Assume then that the Cebu experiment was a success, which can be duplicated in other LGUs facing the threat of multiplying Covid cases.
Cebu now has a stronger reason to keep its success. As it must strive to qualify for the downgrading of its CQ status until finally the quarantine is lifted, it must also work hard to keep the coronavirus in check: tame it until the efficient vaccine becomes available.
It won't be just a matter of observing health protocol even as it must seek to lift totally the quarantine. It is balancing both: the "save lives and save livelihoods" mantra.
Extending the enhanced stage or even the GCQ is, the UP experts say, "an act against the economy."
The vicious logic is that the only way to reopen society and rev up economic recovery is to contain the virus but the only way, for now, to suppress it is for the community to stay closed or suspend or slow down human activity.
One of the "lessons of Cebu" must be how to lift the quarantine and yet keep its health practices. Reopen and yet behave as if the virus were lurking nearby, ready to strike.
To Cebu, the additional burden is that it is held up as a local government to emulate, whose "lessons" other LGUs can learn from. Lessons that Cebu as teacher wouldn't be prudent to unlearn and would be wise to continue practicing.