CITING low mortality and high recovery rates in the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) outbreak in Cebu City, Mayor Edgardo Labella believed that the city must still be placed under the general community quarantine (GCQ) status.
The local executive sent an appeal on Tuesday, June 16, 2020, to the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases. He asked the IATF to reconsider its decision on returning the city to the stringent enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) status from GCQ.
By seeking the GCQ status, the mayor wants to help his constituents “regain” their “means of living.”
However, Labella said he would not insist on continuing with the GCQ status if the IATF stood pat on its decision. Then, he would issue a new set of guidelines and he would urge his constituents to cooperate.
“If they still see that an ECQ (status) is best for our beloved city, as a public servant, I will humbly accept the decision of the IATF and the President,” he said.
As Cebu City is now back in ECQ status, the 116 public buses deployed by Mandaue City did not cross its border with Cebu City. On Tuesday, the city experienced heavy traffic after it heightened its border control points.
Cebu City was placed under GCQ from June 1 to June 15. However, the IATF reverted the city’s status to ECQ—and Cebu City is the lone local government unit (LGU) in the country placed under ECQ from June 16 to June 30.
In the same 15-day period, Cebu Province and the cities of Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu continue to be on the GCQ status, while Talisay City was reverted to the stricter modified enhanced community quarantine.
Labella believes the city government has been doing well in the fight against the Covid-19 outbreak in Cebu City, which was described by Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia as the “epicenter” of the viral disease’s spread in the province.
The City Health Department said the city had 3,613 cases with 1,874 recoveries, or a 51.8 percent recovery rate as of June 15, 2020. The city saw 39 persons who succumbed to Covid-19, for a one percent mortality rate.
“Up to this day, I still believe a GCQ (status) is justified. The data I see do not warrant restrictions set forth by an ECQ. We have the lowest percentage of Covid-19-related deaths among major cities in the country, and one of three LGUs to have completed a prevalence survey through serologic testing. Our decisions have always been based on hard data because we have them,” Labella said.
The mayor said the results on Covid-19 cases released last week came from backlogs in the testing of samples.
Unlike Labella, Governor Garcia on Tuesday said she would not appeal the IATF’s decision. Before the IATF released its decision on Monday night, the governor said she had tried to lower the province’s status from GCQ to modified GCQ (MGCQ) twice—and she got rejected twice.
Instead of using her time on crafting a request letter, Garcia will use the 15-day window in the GCQ status to plan for her programs in case the province’s status will be downgraded to MGCQ.
She believed the IATF decision to revert Cebu City’s status to ECQ played a role in Cebu Province’s status quo. It would be difficult for the province to be under MGCQ while the city is under ECQ, said Garcia.
“Ingon sila bisan asa ka, moagi gyud ka sa Cebu City (They said wherever you are, you have to go through) Cebu City,” Garcia said.
Cebu City is an economic hub in Central Visayas. It houses the major ports, government offices, businesses and hospitals.
Back to square one
Several businesses in Cebu City were back to square one on Tuesday. Malls were closed again, except for essential stores, and more types of businesses were forced to close again.
“Since June 1, 50 to 60 percent of businesses have been back and adjusted to the new norm. With last night’s announcement that Cebu City is back to ECQ, we will need to reassess the situation in the days to come,” said Felix Taguiam, president of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Taguiam reminded business owners to make safety their priority.
Talisay City, Cebu was placed under modified ECQ (MECQ) status, which Mayor Gerald Anthony “Samsam” Gullas Jr. intends to appeal before the IATF.
He questioned the data from the Department of Health (DOH), which stated that the city had zero recovery cases.
The first-term mayor also asked the DOH 7 how it provided information to its central office in Manila.
Upon learning of the city’s new quarantine status Monday night, Gullas called officials under the IATF, including its chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez.
“I asked him what was the basis to place Talisay City under MECQ when there are other cities that have more cases than ours. He (Galvez) said it was data given by the DOH that made them decide,” he said.
As of Tuesday, June 16, Gullas said Talisay City had 118 Covid-19 cases with 43 recoveries and 16 deaths.
In his Facebook post, National Task Force adviser Dr. Tony Leachon said Talisay City has a “high growth rate of cases,” adding that it would “really be prudent” to place it under MECQ as its cases reportedly doubled within 13 days.
However, the graphs published alongside Leachon’s Facebook post showed Talisay City’s case recovery at zero percent. This caught Gullas’ attention.
“I was surprised because there are other cities that have more cases than ours and are under GCQ,” Gullas said.
The cities of Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu have more Covid-19 cases compared to Talisay City. As of Monday, June 15, Mandaue City had 445 Covid-19 cases with 95 recoveries and 12 deaths, while Lapu-Lapu had 189 cases with 15 deaths.
Cebu Province had 269 active cases with 133 recoveries and 38 deaths.
Garcia will conduct an emergency meeting with the mayors of Cebu’s 38 municipalities and six component cities on Wednesday, June 17. They will discuss the setting up of borders again and checkpoints in the province.
Gullas said he will attend this meeting so he can discuss Talisay City’s situation with the governor and other mayors. (PAC, JKV, ANV, JOB & KFD)