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WHO blames ‘uncompliant’ Cebuanos for COVID-19 rise

Agency official says quarantine observance ‘not optimum’ in Cebu City

By: Jovic Yee - Philippine Daily Inquirer July 04,2020 - 07:28 AM

VIOLATORS ALL A large crowd of people gather for a procession in Sitio Alumnos, Barangay Basak San Nicolas, Cebu City, to celebrate the subvillage’s fiesta in honor of the Señor Sto. Niño on the night of June 27, even while the city is on strict lockdown, violating the prohibition against mass gathering. —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Like President Rodrigo Duterte, the World Health Organization (WHO) also attributes the spike in cases of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Cebu City to the supposed noncompliance of residents with health protocols put in place to stem the spread of infection.

Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO Philippines representative, said the observance of quarantine guidelines and procedures were clearly “not optimum in Cebu.” But he said the agency was still unsure about the main contributing factors to the rise in the number of cases.

“[T]here has been some degree of stigma, and people refusing to get tested, to practice isolation and quarantining. All of these issues have contributed to increased transmission,” Abeyasinghe said on Friday.

As of Thursday, there had been 6,288 COVID-19 cases in Cebu City, of which 1,078 were recorded in the last two weeks based on when the patients began to get sick.

The city is under the stringent enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) until July 15, as the doubling time of cases in the city is at 7.62 days, while its critical care utilization rate is at 62.45 percent.

On Tuesday, the President declared that Cebu City would remain on lockdown because of the supposed stubbornness of Cebuanos to follow health protocols.

Obey protocols

Abeyasinghe said the situation in Cebu should serve as an example to people in other areas in the country on the need for everyone to do their part in curbing the spread of COVID-19.

“If we want to minimize the damage to our economies, we need to work individually and communally,” he said.

Private groups in Cebu City on Friday also appealed to Cebuanos to strictly follow the health protocols, including proper wearing of face masks, observance of physical distancing and frequent handwashing.

“[P]lease take this pandemic really seriously. The COVID-19 virus only needs warm bodies to thrive. In two weeks, it will die if it touches none. We are in a war. Let us all rise and fight. Our lives and those of our loved ones depend on how we battle this unseen force,” they said at a virtual press conference.

The groups said they had banded together “to raise consciousness and help shape public behavior so we could all, as a community, truly contribute to contain the health and economic crisis.”

Among them were the Cebu City Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Rotary District 3860, Junior Chamber International Philippines Senate Cebu, University of San Carlos, Chamber of Real Estate and Builders’ Associations Inc., Professionals for Active Citizenship and Transformation and the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) Cebu chapter.

If people will not shape up, the groups feared that the ECQ in Cebu City might be extended beyond July 15.

“We have suffered so much over the past four months. Jobs and business opportunities have been lost. People are suffering, especially those who need to work everyday to feed their families. No one is spared. We have lost many of our friends already in this pandemic, and some of our front-liners. Many now suffer,” they said.

‘This is our fight’

They also pointed out that medical front-liners “are already overwhelmed” and that “our law enforcers are tired, some of them afflicted by the virus.”

“This is our fight. The best way to fight is for us to stay home. We need to sacrifice in unison, in the spirit of cooperation. We can do what people power truly is. Hand in hand, let us get through this predicament together. We ask you, mga Kaigsu-onang Sugbo-anon, let us do this, truly in unity,” they said.

Fr. Roberto “Bobny” Ebisa, KBP Cebu president, said the 15 radio stations in Cebu would help inform and educate the people in the city and the province about COVID-19.

As of Thursday, the Department of Health had recorded a total of 9,237 COVID-19 cases in the entire island of Cebu—6,288 in Cebu City, 1,293 in Cebu province, 881 in Mandaue City, and 775 in Lapu-Lapu City.

Cebu City listed 195 deaths and 2,612 recoveries. At least 1,581 persons have been recuperating in hospitals and 1,900 are staying in the city’s quarantine facilities. —WITH A REPORT FROM NESTLE SEMILLA

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