‘Misinformation complicates COVID crisis in Cebu’

Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star
âMisinformation complicates COVID crisis in Cebuâ
In a statement on June 25, the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) disputed the claim of Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia that smoke inhalation – or tuob – treats the viral disease.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines  — Cases of misinformation involving coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) have complicated efforts to contain the pandemic in Cebu, an adviser of the National Task Force on COVID-19 said.

Task force adviser Ted Herbosa, in an interview with The Chiefs aired on Cignal TV’s One News on Friday night, noted misconceptions and mistruths that may have resulted in greater transmission of the virus.

“Apparently there is some opinion in Cebu City that…COVID-19 is actually not as severe as dengue or TB (tuberculosis) or influenza. There is this misconception, there are a lot of mistruths floating around,” he said.

“The effect really is you see the greater transmission of the virus and more people getting admitted to the hospitals… These are preventable deaths. If the transmission is controlled, we actually save a lot of lives,” he added.

Herbosa noted the position of some medical doctors against some of the misinformation circulating about the pandemic, such as on alleged cures to the illness.

In a statement on June 25, the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) disputed the claim of Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia that smoke inhalation – or tuob – treats the viral disease.

While it may offer relief, it noted that the practice unduly increases the risk of virus spread and transmission to nearby individuals and surfaces, as the steam may aerosolize the virus.

“Worse, if the person was asymptomatic and not yet tested, then the feeling of well-being from the steam inhalation may cause this person to relax or forget safeguards such as wearing of face masks and/or face shields, social distancing, regular handwashing and meticulous hygiene,” said the PMA.

“Gov. Garcia cannot insist on a remedy that is not only unsupported by science, but is actually likely to have adverse consequences. This is counterproductive, irresponsible and dangerous,” it added.


According to Herbosa, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu would serve as an “overseer” to ensure that quarantine measures are strictly implemented to prevent the spread of the virus.

“The Cebuanos are a bit more lax in the implementation of the community quarantine and I think we need some more advocacy in the strict staying at home policy,” he said in the same interview.

“We see that the weakness in Cebu City is leadership and governance… to implement very good community quarantine measures and very good collection of data,” he added when asked what Cimatu would bring to the table to address the spread of the pandemic in the city.

Herbosa, who recently visited Cebu along with several Cabinet members, noted that doctors are already fatigued and demoralized because the cases keep increasing.

Latest data from the Cebu City health department showed that there are 4,702 cases in the city, including 2,369 recoveries and 136 deaths.

There are 2,197 active cases as of Friday afternoon.

Balik Probinsya

In the same interview, Herbosa said national government efforts to bring home stranded individuals from Metro Manila might have contributed to the spread of COVID-19 in some provinces.

“After Cebu, we visited Region VIII in Tacloban and a lot of the cases that were found positive there were from locally stranded individuals and the Balik Probinsya program,” he said, adding that there were also cases coming from Cebu.

“In Luzon, we have the same story. We have Balik Probinsya, locally stranded, returning OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) who may have been able to return to their home provinces… (without going) through the (screening) process and they ended up transmitting in the different areas,” he added.

Often confused with the short-term “Hatid Probinsya” program for stranded individuals, the “Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-Asa” program was suspended earlier this month to give way to the thousands stranded in Metro Manila due to the coronavirus pandemic.

At least two individuals who were part of the first batch of the Balik Probinsya program have tested positive for COVID upon their return to their hometowns.

Others who were part of the Hatid Probinsya program, such as those reported in Ormoc, also tested positive.


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