Cebu Province to focus on recovery, not revert to strict quarantine protocols

·5 min read

THE Provincial Government will not change its policies regarding the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic. It will forge ahead on the path to economic recovery.

“As far as the Province is concerned, we are moving on... We realize that Covid-19, like so many other diseases, will always be there. We cannot even dream of achieving zero Covid-19 (cases),” said Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020.

The governor was reacting to Cebu City Edgardo Labella’s announcement on Saturday night, Nov. 14, that the City Government would strictly enforce the quarantine pass number coding and reimplement border control following the recent spike in Covid-19 cases in the city.

Garcia said a return to strict quarantine protocols will only hurt further an already ravaged local economy.

She urged the Cebu City Government to issue clear guidelines so as not to create confusion among residents from Cebu Province who work in the city.

“I just hope that they will be very, very specific. What do they do about workers coming from the province that the business establishments in the City of Cebu need? Are they allowing them passage? Is there a procedure by which it will distinguish exactly who are allowed and who are not allowed?” she said.

The Province has recently allowed tourists and residents to visit tourist spots as the entire province is under modified general community quarantine.

However, Garcia said the Cebu City Government has the right to protect its jurisdiction.

“If the City chooses to institute that border control, well I thank them for that kay (because) by doing that, they will in fact save us from trouble and by so doing will protect the Province from the, as the mayor said, rising number of Covid-19 cases in the city”, she said.

As of Saturday, Cebu Province had 51 new cases, or a total of 299 active cases. Of its 6,549 confirmed cases, a total of 5,853 had recovered with 397 deaths.

“So with the very high recovery rate that we have seen both in the province and in the City of Cebu, we believe that we must not go back to the very, very strict restrictions that badly damaged, ravaged the economy,” Garcia said.

Starting on Monday, Nov. 16, authorities in Cebu City will strictly enforce existing health protocols to prevent a further rise in the number of Covid-19 cases.

Lt. Col. Wilbert Parilla, deputy director of the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO), clarified that there will be no lockdown and the city’s borders will remain open. He said that what they’ll do is ensure that people who are out on the streets or inside vehicles are authorized persons outside residence (Apor).

The police official said residents from other local government units in the metro and the rest of the province can still enter Cebu City if they have work here. However, they will have to present a certificate of employment and an ID from their place of work to prove they are Apor.

Visitors who do not work in Cebu City can also enter as long as they present a quarantine pass, Parilla said.

“The reason we are once again strictly enforcing quarantine protocols is because of the rise in Covid cases in the city. We’ve noticed that enforcement and implementation have been somewhat lax in the past few weeks,” Parilla said in Cebuano.

He said police officers will start conducting patrols together with members of Task Force Kasaligan to ensure members of the public comply with minimum health standards like wearing face masks and face shields, among others.

He said they will be on the lookout for any sort of gathering in barangays, which is strictly prohibited while the pandemic is ongoing.

Parilla said that during contact tracing, they found out most of those who contracted the disease had attended parties and drinking sessions where attendees didn’t observe social distancing and didn’t put on face masks or face shields.

Parilla admitted that they don’t have enough police officers to patrol the city’s 80 barangays after members of the augmentation force who were deployed here at the beginning of the health crisis were sent home.

He has asked barangay officials to deploy tanods to patrol the interior portions of their neighborhoods and to reprimand quarantine violators.

Parilla said it would even be better if barangays once again set up control points manned by tanods to monitor residents’ movements.

On Saturday, Cebu City logged 59 new Covid-19 cases, the highest number of cases recorded in a day since the start of November.

City Councilor Joel Garganera, deputy chief implementer of the city’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), said 33 of the new patients are 25 years old and below.

He said the city recorded an average of 12.35 cases daily between Nov. 1 and Nov. 14.

The EOC noted that more cases are logged daily than recoveries.

Garganera also pointed to the increase in non-Covid-related hospital admissions. That is why proper measures must be put in place immediately to avoid a resurgence in cases, he said.

However, the Department of Health (DOH) 7 said it was too early to say that a second wave would take place.

According to DOH spokesperson for Covid-19 response Mary Jean Loreche, the rise in Covid-19 cases is a sign that “Covid-19 is very much still here with us and we need to fight it together.”

Loreche believes Cebu City has a better chance of controlling its current Covid-19 situation.

“We have a very active and proactive EOC, our health care facilities are better equipped and we have the testing capabilities with all the laboratories that are in place,” she said.

Based on the DOH data, as of Sunday, Cebu City had a total of 10,648 Covid-19 cases with 9,494 recoveries, leaving 292 active cases. (ANV, AYB, JJL / KAL, PJB)