Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu on Tuesday gave a hint of Cebu City’s fate hours before President Rodrigo Duterte was to announce his next step for the new COVID-19 epicenter: A total lockdown.
The Chief Executive was to face the public via a televised speech after submitting his 14th report under the Bayanihan Law on Tuesday night.
But Cimatu, the President’s troubleshooter in Cebu City, disclosed his recommendation to put the Queen City under the strictest lockdown level as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in the region.
Cimatu, the President’s pandemic response leader in the area, cited the city as having the highest new coronavirus tally in the country,
It has 4,639 cases on Monday, 987 of which were recorded in the last 14 days, according to the Department of Health (DoH).
It also listed 13 deaths due to the respiratory disease, its highest single-day COVID-19 fatality count. Cimatu noted that the national fatality rate is only at 10 to 12 deaths per day.
He stressed that he would also keep a “hard lockdown” in 12 barangays with the most COVID-19 cases. He does not see a quick improvement on their situations.
Cebu City cases spiked two weeks ago when the restrictions were eased. The arrival of repatriated migrant workers and locally stranded individuals were also blamed for the new spread.
This led to the President’s decision to revert the city to an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
“These travelers used Cebu as a transit area,” said Cimatu, noting that the respiratory disease also spread in some of the barangay isolation facilities. He stated that such operations will be stopped and their patients transferred to quarantine centers.
“Many residents also violated quarantine protocols,” Cimatu said. “Additional police and soldiers were deployed to Cebu City to help man checkpoints and prevent residents with no official business from going out of their homes.”
“The intention really is not actually a show of force. Because of what we have done here in the lockdown, I’m expecting that we will reduce, stop this bleeding,” he added.
The DENR chief disclosed that 32 military doctors and some 40 doctors who volunteered for assignment in rural areas were also transferred to Cebu City to help its healthcare system fight the virus.
He also added that private hospitals require their personnel to go on a two-week quarantine after each week of duty. But it reduces the workforce.
“There really is a shortage of personnel because they are on rotation. They are overworked, overburdened,” Cimatu said.
The region’s COVID response chief noted that the DoH will hire more medical frontliners for the city and disclosed that he was also talking the business sector to provide hazard pay to nurses, the lack of which “demoralizes” them.
The city will also increase hospital rooms and quarantine sites for COVID-19 patients and replicate Metro Manila’s conversion of coliseums into isolation facilities, he added.
Cimatu also disclosed the transfer of isolation centers from the barangays to other areas to prevent further transmissions.
“In their anticipation to stop the increase of cases, they put up isolation centers in their barangays. They used schools as isolation centers, and that’s how the virus started to spread among themselves, within the barangay,” Cimatu said. “That’s what happened, so we’re going to stop this.”
“I have to transfer the isolation structures outside of their respective barangays. They need to be moved farther,” he added.
The Region 7 IATF chief noted that as of 30 June, 12 barangays in Cebu City have been placed under hard lockdown — Basak San Nicolas, Sambag Dos, Kamputhaw, Sambag Uno, Mabolo, Guadalupe, Lahug, Duljo, Tinago, Tisa, Ermita and Tejero.
He added that the 12 barangays have a “special” quarantine classification.
“Unless there will be dramatic improvements in the 12 barangays, all of them will still be placed under hard lockdown even if the quarantine classification in the whole of Cebu City will be lowered,” Cimatu said.