IATF considering tighter restrictions in Cebu City

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THE national government might step in again and tighten community quarantine restrictions in Cebu City to tame the surge in coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases, retired general Melquiades Feliciano said Friday, Feb. 19, 2021.

Feliciano said this will depend on the Covid-19 situation next week, when the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases is expected to recommend the new quarantine classifications for the month of March.

Cebu City is under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), the least restrictive form, until Feb. 28.

Cases of infection, however, have exceeded 100 a day since Jan. 28, and surpassed 200 a day five times in February, based on Department of Health Central Visayas (DOH 7) data.

On Friday, Feb. 19, Cebu City posted 192 new cases, higher than the 157 recoveries on the same day. There were two additional mortalities.

Health authorities have declined to link the increase in cases to the virus mutations detected in PCR-positive samples collected in the cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu as well as in Cebu Province.

Confirmation of the mutations, however, has prompted some people to suggest that the entire Cebu be placed under lockdown, drawing the ire of Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia.


“Don’t mess with us. We can take care of ourselves. I will not and never again accept lockdown. I will fight for Cebu and the Cebuano because Cebu is moving on and moving forward,” Garcia warned.

In an interview with reporters, she stressed that health authorities were still studying the virus mutations.

She said measures are already in place against Covid-19 transmission and local government units across the Province have devised a system to keep infections in check. Isolation centers have been established and contact tracers have been hired, among others.

“Lockdowns don’t work well. They work against the economy. They disrupt the economy to the detriment of the poor,” she added.

Cases in Cebu Province, however, have exceeded 50 a day since Feb. 2, except on Feb. 15, and went beyond 100 on Feb. 17 and 18.

On Friday, Cebu had 92 new cases, more than the 85 recoveries. No additional death was reported.

Based on the DOH nationwide Covid-19 tracker, Cebu Province has the second highest number of new infections over the recent two-week period, next to Cebu City.

Cebu City

Cebu City has been posting the highest number of cases over a two-week period nationwide, followed by Cebu Province, according to the DOH tracker.

Mayor Edgardo Labella said he was aware of the possibility that Cebu City could be placed under a more stringent community quarantine level.

But he said the situation is still under control and should not be a cause for alarm.

The Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) is also against a city-wide lockdown.

Chamber president Felix Taguiam is pushing for granular lockdowns and stricter implementation of health safety protocols instead.

“The rise in cases is due to opening up of our economy and business owners are testing more. Let’s not forget to implement the minimum health standards,” he said.

Aside from strengthening implementation of health safety measures, Filipino Cebuano Business Club chairman Rey Calooy said government should also hasten vaccine procurement and continue educating the public on the need to comply with the minimum public health standards.

Feliciano noted that the positivity rate in Cebu City has doubled to about 20 percent in February compared to the 10 to 12 percent in June to July last year.

Feliciano, as deputy chief implementer for the Visayas of the National Task Force Against Covid-19, was sent to oversee the pandemic response in Cebu City when cases first surged in mid-June 2020.

Dr. Carol Cajegas, Cebu City Emergency Operations Center data cluster management head, said only 23 rooms at five hotels are available for asymptomatic patients.

There are, however, still several classrooms available in barangay isolation centers.

Mandaue City

Covid-19 bed utilization in hospitals and isolation facilities in Mandaue City also remains low, according to Dr. Ligaya Lakambini Dargantes, head of patient management of Mandaue EOC.

As of Feb. 19, she said only 200 of the 660 active cases are in hospitals and isolation facilities.

Norkis Park, which currently serves as primary isolation facility in Mandaue City, has 71 patients while the Mandaue Central Isolation Unit (MCIU), which can accommodate up to 1,000 patients, has only 35.

Norkis Park can accommodate up to 90 patients while the former North Bus terminal isolation facility can accommodate 63 patients.

The former bus terminal is currently used as a swab testing area. It also hosts individuals who are waiting for their swab results.

The rest of the patients are undergoing home quarantine, said Dargantes.

If Covid-19 cases continue to rise, and both MCIU and Norkis Park become full, Dargantes said the former bus terminal will then be used to accommodate patients. (PAC / ANV / KFD / JOB)