Cebu City looms as new COVID epicenter — Año
MANILA, Philippines — Cebu City is “more likely” to be the new epicenter of coronavirus disease 2019 contagion in the country as COVID-19 infections continue to rise, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said yesterday.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año made the observation as he cited the growing number of cases being logged in Cebu City compared to Metro Manila, which is composed of 17 local government units.
“Yes, more likely because of the rate of infection in Cebu City,” Año said in an interview aired over ANC, when asked if Cebu City had become the epicenter of COVID-19 in the country.
There are at least 5,500 COVID-19 cases in Cebu City, including about 150 deaths and at least 2,300 recoveries.
Authorities said rampant violation of quarantine rules has greatly contributed to the spike in cases. Cebu City is under the strictest enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). President Duterte is set to announce possible adjustments in quarantine levels across the country today.
Over the weekend, hundreds of people reportedly gathered in Sitio Alumnos in Barangay Basak San Nicolas for a religious procession and fiesta despite the prohibition of mass gatherings under ECQ.
Año said the DILG would be filing cases against the organizers of the event, while concerned local government officials including barangay executives and police authorities would be made to explain why such gathering had been allowed.
Barangay officials have denied giving go signal to the event.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) chief made it clear yesterday that violators of the ECQ in Cebu City would be immediately arrested.
“That is our guidance there in Cebu because it is a requirement since their infection rate has increased dramatically. That’s why if it is needed, no more warnings, an immediate arrest follows,” PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa said at a briefing.
He said that while Cebu City residents were generally mindful of quarantine rules, many were still displaying defiance.
The PNP had earlier deployed Special Action Force (SAF) commandos and at least a dozen aerial drone units to keep residents indoors.
Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) dispatched a medical team to Cebu City to augment the city’s healthcare system.
The team, composed of nine doctors, 10 nurses, and 13 medical aides, flew to Cebu City on a C-130 transport plane.
“The Group of 32 will be part of history. You are among the first responders to help Cebu,” Cebu coronavirus management overseer Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said in his send-off message.
“Our services during this pandemic in Cebu will never be repeated in our lifetime. Pagbutihin ninyo ang ating (Be good in your) services not only in the name of the AFP but you as an individual. Then after this pandemic you will feel self-satisfied in your life because we are here to help save lives in this moment of despair,” he said.
“In our first aid lesson, primary concern is to stop the bleeding. And the bleeding in Cebu is the number of deaths. That’s what we are going to do. To stop the bleeding there,” he said.
‘Call of duty’
For his part, anti-COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. lauded members of the medical team for taking part in the health mission.
“I know that our military is now overly stretched. But as members of the military, we know it’s the call of duty, and we are prepared to extend our help in whatever capacity,” he said.
“We are proud of this team for stepping up in this dangerous but very important mission. This is what it means to be a soldier and we know more than anyone that no danger of disease will stop us from accomplishing our mission,” said AFP vice chief of staff Vice Admiral Gaudencio Collado Jr. who represented AFP chief Gen. Felimon Santos.
Also yesterday, officials revealed the unveiling of a new quarantine facility built as a partnership between the Cebu City Council and business establishments.
The New Normal Oasis for Adaptation and a Home (NOAH) Complex quarantine facility can accommodate more than 300 mild-to-moderate COVID-19 patients.
Private sector partners include SM Foundation, Beautiful Cebu Movement Foundation, San Miguel Corp., Cebu Holdings Inc., Gokongwei Brothers Foundation, United Architects of the Philippines, Visayas Electric Co. (VECO) and Mandaue Foam.
“The creation of NOAH Complex is only one of the many testaments of the true Bayanihan spirit brought out by the pandemic,” said Melquiades Feliciano, deputy chief implementer of COVID-19 task force for the Visayas.
“We have seen so many acts of helping one another during our toughest times, and this only proves that we will rise above this challenge when we work together,” Feliciano said.
“The NOAH Complex is compliant with all the requirements of the Department of Health, and we made sure that this is a place where our patients can feel that they are safe and well taken care of,” said Joy Pesquera, manager of the facility. Pia Lee-Brago, Jose Rodel Clapano