PRESIDENTIAL Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino said the Project Balik Buhay (PBB) and National Task Force Covid-19 chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. were major factors in the downgrade of Cebu City’s classification to general community quarantine (GCQ).
“The data-driven, evidence-based and scientific approach through PBB was the game changer that convinced the Covid-19 Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to downgrade Cebu City to GCQ,” Dino said.
The PBB, as initiated by Dino, requires the conduct of a prevalence survey to support the calibrated, scientific, evidence-based transition from enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) to GCQ for the cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu.
The prevalence test is aligned with President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s directive to implement lockdowns only at the community level, no longer at the city and provincial level, he pointed out.
“With prevalence testing, local government units can now see the enemy. We are no longer fighting Covid blind by using the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (rt-PCR) or rapid anti-body testing (RAT) to determine which areas have infections,” Dino added.
He also thanked Galvez for having strongly argued in favor of Cebu City’s reclassification to GCQ.
According to a high-ranking government official, who is an IATF member, Galvez testified that Cebu City is ready for GCQ because its mass testing allowed it to pinpoint and isolate which barangays were most affected by Covid.
Galvez also noted that the city would be very prepared for any possible outbreak because of the many Covid-19 facilities on standby.
He answered many of the questions of the IATF committee members because he witnessed it during his recent trip to Cebu.
Dino also recognized the cooperation of the cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu and their chief executives in the implementation of the PBB.
He thanked Department of Health (DOH 7) Regional Director Jaime Bernadas, Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, DOH 7 chief pathologist and Dr. Junjie Zuasula, chief of DOH 7 Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Unit, for their tireless efforts in the conduct of the prevalence survey.
Dino also expressed appreciation to PBB chair Edmund Liu and co-chair Kenneth Cobonpue, who both volunteered their precious time for the success of the project.
Meanwhile, Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella also credited the PBB prevalence survey for downgrading the status of the city to the general community quarantine.
“Because of the scientific database and strategic approach of the Project Balik Buhay, we were able to identify the areas and we were also able to find out that the extent of the pandemic has gone down. And that we were able to identify the only remaining areas and we can just place (these areas) under segmental lockdown,” Labella said.
The mayor also thanked Galvez for taking up the cudgels for Cebu City.
“We are very thankful to Secretary Galvez because he is the one who was responsible for really making the certification that they don’t just look at the numbers. They have to look at other factors,” he said.
The mayor explained that the increase in Covid-19 positive cases resulted from the massive testing conducted by Cebu City. “We are thankful to Secretary Galvez for being able to present our case to the national IATF,” he added.
Last Saturday, in his visit to Cebu, together with deputy chief implementer Secretary Vince Dizon, Galvez was happy over the preparations made by Cebu City and the cities of Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu to counter the Covid-19 pandemic.
He was particularly impressed by the presence of the quarantine facilities, such as the two Bayanihan field centers and the Cebu City Quarantine Center, which could accommodate up to 400 Covid-19 patients with mild or moderate symptoms.
Meanwhile, Bernadas had endorsed the request for the downgrading of Cebu City to GCQ, citing the results of the prevalence survey conducted under the PBB.
“The recently concluded Randomized, Targeted Community Testing in the Cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu has issued a recommendation for segmental locking down of barangays that would have an increasing number of cases,” Bernadas explained.
He noted that the recommendation has set a case threshold for barangays and its classification and quarantine protocol (ECQ to GCQ), and when to open it up (ECQ to GCQ).
The recommendation includes several required action points for highly urbanized cities under GCQ.
Quarantine status can be dynamic, which meant it could be a step-down or step-up, depending on the number of active positive Covid-19 cases.
The highly urbanized city (HUC) has to use disease surveillance as the key for a reassessment of quarantine status of a particular barangay, sitio, block, or compound placed under a quarantine status.
Other required actions include: continue enhanced influenza-like illness (ILI) and severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) surveillance; maximize close contact tracing efforts (trace-isolate-swab-treat); establish at least one isolation center per barangay and initiate Covid-19 recovery surveillance.
The recommendation also emphasized the importance of ensuring that all Covid-19 positive cases, those tested through rt-PCR or RAT, have recovered after a 14-day quarantine or home isolation (IgG+ by RAT).
HUCs are also required to regularly and actively analyze as well as update its database on Covid-19 cases using software recommended by the DOH.
“We would like to place this conditionality to ensure that areas that have no cases and have no documented exposure (IgM positive) remain open for business with the imposition of minimum health standards recommended by the DOH,” Bernadas added.
He also noted that Cebu City has a critical care utilization rate of less than 70 percent but more than 30 percent and a case doubling time of more than seven days but less than 30 days.
“These two factors would place the city in a moderate risk classification deceleration with a continuous reduction in cases. And therefore, would warrant it to be placed in general community quarantine (GCQ) with the recommended action points under such classification or stage,” Bernadas said. (PR)