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Cebu News

Late action helped propel contagion in Cebu City

Caecent No-ot Magsumbol - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines — Late action from the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at the onset of what now appears as a resurgence of COVID-19 cases contributed to the upward trend of new cases in Cebu City.

“When there was a sudden increase of cases, I can say this upfront, the EOC was not able to adjust accordingly,” said retired Major General Melquiades Feliciano, implementer for the Visayas of the national Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for COVID-19.

He understood, though, that cases started to double during the holidays at a time when the EOC “was at its leanest”. At that time, the EOC had downsized its staff because the contagion had been contained successfully – that is, Cebu City was registering only under a hundred or a little over a hundred active cases.

Feliciano said two factors contributed to the delay in action: External and internal. The external factor refers to the absence of much needed support in terms of personnel and logistics and this absence resulted to the internal factor – the morale of EOC personnel going down.

“The virus spreads so quickly when there are no appropriate intervention programs,” Feliciano told the City Council.

The EOC has not issued a comment on this assessment.

Feliciano returned to Cebu City last week, barely a week after he visited the EOC for the first time on January 18.

During his first visit, Feliciano thought the situation could be controlled right away but the trend in new cases continued to move upward. This prompted Vice Mayor Michael Rama to seek for help from Feliciano and Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, overseer of enforcement of quarantine protocols in Cebu.

Based on Department of Health (DOH)-7’s February 2 case bulletin, Cebu City has breached the 1,600 mark after posting a total number of active cases at 1,613, the biggest total since August 15, 2020.

On February 2, Cebu City logged 142 new cases, the biggest number of additional cases in a day since July 21.

OCTA Research foresees an average of 150 new cases a day in the next two weeks if the situation in the city is not addressed.

Increase in transmission in households was also noted.

“We don’t know if some of the household members are going out and spreading the virus. We are not sure if locking down this household would prevent the spread as some members are able to still go out,” Feliciano said.

Other activities that resulted to faster transmission were Christmas parties and other social gatherings, drinking sprees, strolling at malls, visits to relatives, and even vacations.

Barangay captains have been reminded to implement strict quarantine and monitoring of households placed under granular lockdown.

Isolation Centers

As contact tracing for new cases proceeds, the city decided to re-open more barangay isolation centers where asymptomatic patients are housed. Councilor Joel Garganera, the EOC’s deputy chief implementer, said eight more schools are being prepared.

The city earlier reopened the schools in Zapatera, Mabolo, and Labangon after the NOAH Complex at the South Road Properties reached its full capacity.

Garganera said the city now has three more ambulances to use from the Aboitiz Foundation.

DOH also accredited more hotels for isolation since other DOH-accredited infirmaries are already full.

The piece of good news is that hospitals are still within the safe zone.

Feliciano expects all needed facilities will already be available tomorrow, Friday, so that all positive patients can already be extracted from their homes.

Garganera said that extraction of patients from their houses was stopped because the city had a difficulty reusing the schools as isolation centers as they were being used in distributing school modules.

But he said the problem will be addressed this week as the local school board, Department of Education, and barangays are now cooperating with the city in coming up with the required bed capacity.

More interventions

Feliciano said they will be introducing to Cebu City a method that turned out effective in Bacolod City – a faster turnaround time for testing and results. Ironically, this method is an improved version of a method adopted in Cebu City at the peak of the city’s battle against COVID-19 last year.

“We are introducing a measure effective in Bacolod City. From here, improved there… and that immediately have 24 hours addressing index cases including the turn-around time,” Feliciano said.

He said he wants to bring down to 24 hours the turnaround time of what often took the EOC three to four days to finish.

Authorities are also looking at minors at this point and urged parents to take responsibility in ensuring that even children overserve proper health protocols.

 “Hopefully, this can be aggressively addressed. These are the effects of late actions that were not available during their initial increase. In the coming days, it may peak, but then, hopefully, lower down again probably in two weeks’ time,” Feliciano said. — Decemay P. Padilla, JMO (FREEMAN)

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