Focus on the economy

SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit Avila (The Freeman) - June 10, 2020 - 12:00am

It seems that we, residents of Cebu City, run the risk of being reverted to modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) if the number of COVID-19 cases in the city continues to rise before evaluation of quarantine status on June 14. First of all, whoever makes the decision regarding the status of Cebu City should have expected a rise in our GCQ status simply because at least some people are now trying to restore their jobs. Like it or not, we have to face the reality that we are still in community quarantine because no vaccine has been found to fight COVID-19 so far.

Dr. Tony Leachon, special adviser to the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) under chief implementer, Secretary Carlito Galvez, a leader in preventive health education and a health reform advocate, said the increasing number of cases in the first week of June, the first week that Cebu City was under GCQ, worried him. Since the end of March to the present, I understand that there were only 36 deaths. This was also up from only 11 deaths in just two months. The whole trouble is that many of the deaths may not be through COVID-19 because the dead patients were never tested at all.

Perhaps, the biggest worry for Cebuanos is too much attention has been given to those infected with COVID-19, while not much attention has been given to an equally important role for Cebu to get its snarled economy back on its feet. For instance, the IATF did not consider that married couples do not do social distancing inside their homes simply because they are not infected. Like me, we don’t even wear masks inside our home. This is why we question the IATF on why it does not allow motorcycle backriding. Honestly, businesses that recently opened started in a very sluggish way simply because not all their workers are back onboard. But more importantly, their customers cannot visit their business establishments.

Allow me to reprint the Philippine Star’s editorial yesterday entitled “Record high unemployment”:

“With businesses shuttered and jobs and livelihoods in limbo due to quarantine measures undertaken to contain the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, a spike in unemployment and underemployment was inevitable. Still, the figures were dismaying. In April, the first full month of the COVID-19 quarantine, unemployment soared to 17.7 percent from 5.1 percent in the same period last year, while underemployment jumped from 13.4 percent to 18.9. This translated into 7.254 million jobless – up from the 2.267 million in April 2019.

The April Labor Force Survey conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority showed all regions registering double-digit unemployment, with the highest reported in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Officials led by Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno have stressed that the unemployment and underemployment were state-induced to contain COVID-19. He stressed that the figures were “grossly exaggerated” and did not reflect the true state of the Philippine economy.”

While those figures mentioned in the Star editorial maybe temporary. They were referring to jobs lost by the closure of businesses during the nearly three-month long lockdown. I learned that the Department of Health (DOH) would be meeting with doctors and officials from government and private hospitals to discuss pressing issues, particularly on the capacity of hospitals, without intervention from politicians, government officials, and businessmen. A social media post that went viral a couple of days ago, something that came from a well-respected doctor in the city, said that hospitals in Cebu City are now overwhelmed or almost in full capacity due to the rise of COVID-19 cases and health care workers are getting affected.

Our source also informed us that the Cebu City Quarantine Center was reported to have already catered to some patients but had to be closed as some parts still needed repairs while the Bayanihan-2 Field Center-EIC3 remains unused as of yesterday. He added that the information on the status of hospitals is not intended to spread fear but to caution Cebuanos to be careful and practice preventive measures against COVID-19. This, for me, is the most important part of being in GCQ -- that we have to follow the protocol during this pandemic.

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