Is Cebu City ready to move on? Arat na Cebu draws mixed reactions
CEBU CITY, Philippines – A free concert that was recently held here sparked discussions among experts and the general public about whether the city is ready to move on from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Arat na Cebu held at the Cebu City Sports Center (CCSC) last Saturday, March 26, was the first concert that took place here nearly two years since COVID restrictions were introduced.
For officials of the national and city governments, the event that drew roughly 100,000 attendees was a success.
Retired Gen. Mel Feliciano, chief implementer of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease in the Visayas (IATF-Visayas), lauded the organizers for pulling it off.
In a statement sent to members of the media, Feliciano said, huge gatherings are “glimpse of the new normal.”
“Gatherings are safe for as long as the minimum health standard is followed and the event is held in an open-air venue,” Feliciano said.
“The Saturday night concert shows us a glimpse of the new normal, wherein we may enjoy the things we used to whilst adhering to the right behaviour. As we move forward from the health crisis of the pandemic, we continue to learn to adapt,” he added.
The IATF official also commended the city government for pushing to reopen the economy on a full scale.
“This ‘new normal’ is only a prelude to Mayor Michael Rama’s aspiration to move to the “real normal”, we can expect more large gatherings and events to happen. However, we must remember that protection is a shared responsibility and everyone must take accountability for their actions,” Feliciano continued.
The health sector, on the other hand, advised local governments to continue to monitor and regulate the conduct of crowd-gathering activities such as concerts and even political rallies.
Dr. Jaime Bernadas, director of the Department of Health in Central Visayas (DOH-7), cautioned the public not to put all their guards down.
“We should not also be complacent on all these because we will really have problems when we don’t go back to our basic practices on minimum health standards,” said Bernadas in a recent press conference.
The top DOH-7 official pointed out that Central Visayas still needs to work on its COVID-19 immunization coverage rate before it can abandon all health protocols.
“Good if we can cover 85 percent of the population then maybe we can relax a little. But for now, we really have to exercise due diligence and prudence among the candidates to adhere to the standards,” Bernadas added.
Earlier, DOH-7, through its chief pathologist Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, described the Arat na Cebu concert as worrisome and that it may end up as a “superspreader event.”
The Cebu City Government, for its part, begged off from responding to the DOH-7’s statement.
But Mayor Michael Rama defended his decision to allow crowd-gathering events despite concerns raised.
“There is no other way now but to rise up and move forward. But as we have emphasized from the beginning, we all have a shared responsibility, our way for the people to become mature as a community,” said Rama in a separate press conference.
The mayor also stood by his earlier pronouncement that he will allow other forms of gatherings in the future, saying it was part of his administration’s plans to resuscitate the city’s battered economy.
“As we have declared before, our road to recovery will proceed without let-up. The prize of freedom can only be felt through our shared responsibility,” Rama pointed out.
Cebu City has been downgraded to Alert Level 1 since March 15. Under Alert Level 1, the conduct of gatherings is allowed.
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