Experts: Cebu an ‘area of serious concern’ due to rise in COVID cases
But local officials say outbreak still manageable
CEBU CITY, Philippines—Local officials in Cebu continue to reassure the public that the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak here remained at manageable levels.
This despite recent findings from a group of researchers in Metro Manila tagging the entire province-island, including its capital Cebu City, an area of ‘serious concern’ due to rise in new infections.
City Councilor Joel Garganera, who heads Cebu City’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), admitted that the surge has become alarming.
But Garganera reiterated earlier calls, urging for the public to cooperate by always observing minimum health standards while the situation is still under control.
“Our situation is indeed alarming and the EOC, together with the PNP (Philippine National Police), DOH (Department of Health), and other agencies, are doing our best to ensure that we won’t go back to how it was before,” said Garganera.
“As of now, everything is at a manageable level, but anything can change in any minute. Which is why we’re asking the public to do their part and to do it well,” he added.
Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, spokesperson of DOH in Central Visayas (DOH-7), shared the same sentiments with Garganera.
“We are still very much in control of the situation and there is no need to upgrade our quarantine status,” Loreche told reporters in a separate interview.
Like the head of the EOC, Loreche said compliance with existing health protocols could help prevent the situation become uncontrollable.
“There are differences as to the COVID situation in Cebu City and Cebu province last year, specially in the peak months of May to July 2020… What we do need will be the stricter implementation and monitoring of the adherence to the public health measures, each member of the society to do their share through discipline,” she explained.
In its Philippine COVID-19 report dated January 28, 2021, researchers from OCTA Research Group highlighted that the entire island of Cebu has become ‘a serious concern’ after discovering that its reproduction number reached 1.57.
“The reproduction number in Cebu province over the past week was 1.57, much higher than the reproduction number for the entire Philippines, which was 0.96,” portions of the report stated.
Contributors of the study were Guido David, Ranjit Rye, Nicanor Austriaco, Ma Patricia Agbulos, Erwin Alampay, Eero Rosini Brillantes, Benjamin Co, Bernhard Egworlf, Franco Felizarta, Troy Gepte, Bryan Albert Lim, Rodrigo Angelo Ong, Michael Tee and Benjamin Vallejo Jr.
The group said DataDrop related to COVID from DOH were used in the formulation of the report.
They added that if no measures will be implemented to address the spike in cases, Cebu’s healthcare industry could, once again, suffer.
“While the attack rate of Cebu was still below the high risk cutoff, the significant increase in new cases, if unmitigated, could pose challenges to the healthcare system of the province,” the report stated.
It can be recalled that Cebu City was reverted back to enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) last June 2020 when it experienced rapid transmission of the virus that resulted in overwhelmed hospitals.
“The last time Cebu was placed under ECQ, the province averaged 400 new cases per day. This number could be reached in two weeks if trends are not reversed,” OCTA’s team noted.
The city has been downgraded to modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), the most-relaxed form of community quarantine, since September.
Health experts here attributed the rise of new COVID-19 cases here in Cebu City to unregulated gatherings such as parties during the holidays in December 2020.
Both Garganera and Loreche said they have anticipated this surge, and that all measures have been put in place to address it.
In addition, Loreche pointed to several factors that explained why the COVID outbreak in the entire Cebu is still at controllable levels. These included a healthy critical care utilization rate, which is at 24.3 percent.
“Meaning of the 897 beds [regular COVID beds and intensive-care unit (ICU) beds], we have 218 patients in the private hospitals broken down into 206 in the regular COVID beds and 12 in the ICU,” Loreche explained.
Local officials use critical care utilization rates to gauge the outbreak’s situation. If hospitals here reach 60 percent, it is considered an alarming development.
The DOH-7 official also said Cebu has enough isolation facilities to accommodate those with mild to moderate symptoms, and that emergency operations centers around the island have done the necessary protocols to contain the virus.
“In our data, the most recent of which also shows that the asymptomatic but who tested positive makes up 87.8 percent of the total number of active cases,” said Loreche.
On January 28, 103 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases were logged in Cebu City, bringing the total number of active cases to jump back to 1,150. /bmjo
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