I FLEW to Manila against my better judgment last Monday to attend a basic policymakers’ seminar conducted by a government agency. When talks of a possible lockdown became louder, I decided to go home without finishing the three-day course.
I am glad that I did even if I had to pay Philippine Airlines more than P7,000 for a new one-way ticket because the rebooking cost was P200 higher (thank you for your customer care, PAL). Yesterday morning, the seminar had to be canceled abruptly after it was found that the speaker, who was already in the conference room, was suspected of infection with the coronavirus.
Forty-nine confirmed infections, two deaths. Although many other countries have reported a higher number of Covid-19 cases, the ailment’s steady rise (24-33-49) in the Philippines during a three-day period ending Wednesday is a real cause for alarm and an urgent call to our local government officials to formulate policies to address the outbreak here if it happens.
Fortunately for us, Gov. Gwen Garcia and Mayor Edgar Labella have already mapped out measures long before the threat of a Covid-19 outbreak became more imminent to us. The governor banned the participation of Cebu athletes in regional competitions, dismissing claims from organizers and local sports officials that it was safe to do so. Recently, she again met with government and private sector leaders to emphasize the need for collective, collaborative action to contain an outbreak, if and when.
The Cebu City mayor has also been meeting with other City Hall officials to map out strategy to minimize, if not prevent, infection and calm the nerves of Cebu City residents if, in spite of the preventive measures, some people will test positive for the virus in the city.
Yesterday, Labella went straight from the airport to join a clean-up drive of all the ten city public markets prior to disinfection. Later in the evening, he was scheduled to sit down with the heads of all universities and colleges in the city to hear their plans regarding the continuation of classes and the holding of graduation exercises in the light of the coronavirus scare.
“My job is to listen,” he told me on the phone yesterday, “although at the end of the day, I will make the final call pursuant to the general welfare clause of the city charter.”
This morning, he will also meet with the regional heads of the Department of Health and the Department of Trade and Industry, all the hospital administrators or medical directors, the city health officer and other City Hall department heads, the MCWD chairman and the police chief, among others.
He is expected to take up proposals to distribute liquid hand soap or rubbing alcohol to every poor household through the MILO, the DWUP or the barangay officials and for the MCWD to make available water to the same households so they can at least wash their hands.
He will also seek assurance from both the public and private hospitals that they have trained personnel and adequate facilities to handle Covid-19 cases and from the DTI that they will punish establishments that are found hoarding or overpricing basic and essential items.
Labella said he was not trying to alarm the people. “As their leader, I am just being prudent.”