CEBU City will now use the 350-bed New Normal Oasis for Adaptation and a Home (Noah) Complex at the South Road Properties as the new isolation center for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) asymptomatic patients in the city.
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, the overseer of the Cebu Covid-19 Task Force, said new infections of the new coronavirus will be brought to the NOAH complex and no longer at the barangay isolation centers (BICs).
This, after Cimatu expressed his concern that the BICs may be a source of infection in the barangays which eventually causes the spread of the virus.
Cimatu, in a virtual press conference with other members of the National Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), said there is a need to reduce the number of patients quarantined in barangay isolation centers.
Cebu City has retained its enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) status until July 15. It is the only local government unit in the country under hard lockdown as cases of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) continue to rise.
The bed capacity of Noah complex will be increased once the current bed capacity is fully occupied. Former councilor Joy Pesquera, manager of the Noah complex, said on Monday, July 6, they will put 400 tents that can house 1,200 asymptomatic Covid-19 patients.
Cimatu said they are also eyeing to convert some sports facilities into isolation centers if the need arises.
The secretary clarified that the quarantine protocol in the BICs has so far been effective since many patients tested negative for the virus and were released after the 14-day quarantine.
Asymptomatic Covid-19 patients are quarantined in their respective BICs for 14 days.
Cebu City had 2,896 beds in the 43 BICs in the south and north districts and the mountain barangays as of mid-June. Only 35.46 percent of the bed capacity is occupied.
BICs are public schools in the barangays and are often situated in the center of the village.
Cimatu said patients in BICs will only be swabbed again after 14 days to see if they still have the virus.
Patients with negative results will be sent home, he said.
Cimatu in an earlier virtual press briefing aired his suspicion that BICs could be the reason why transmission of the virus in some barangays is high.
He wanted to place the isolation center far from communities.
The Noah complex, which was inaugurated last June 6, has an initial bed capacity of 300, but Cimatu said additional beds can still be accommodated.
Meanwhile, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Cebu City needs to level up its public health interventions to reduce the transmission and spread of the new coronavirus in the communities.
First, he said Cebuanos have to be mindful of the importance of non-pharmaceutical public health interventions like physical distancing, handwashing, use of disinfectants, ensuring cough etiquette and the use of masks.
Duque said the study shows that masks give 85 percent protection as long as they’re worn properly.
Another thing is making sure that containment measures are in place. The health secretary stressed that to minimize the spread of the virus, the city needs to be proactive, which means active case finding in the communities.
"Find the suspects and the probables. Those with symptoms, isolate right away. Without symptoms you quarantine them and then you do immediate contact tracing and simultaneously you have to do testing," Duque said.
He added that the IATF is precisely in Cebu City to help ramp up its testing capacity.
"Now, I'm told the testing capacity is 6,000, and we hope that we will be able to actually match that capacity in terms of their total daily testing outputs," he said.
Aside from increasing the testing capacity, aggressive contact tracing is also needed.
Duque said clinical care management of symptomatic Covid-19 patients needs to be done properly to prevent patients from deteriorating into severe and critical Covid cases and to prevent death.
He added that there is a need to increase the utilization of intermediate facilities like the temporary and monitoring facilities so as not to overwhelm the hospital facilities.
Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella said the City has organized 80 contact tracing teams. The members of the teams started the training on June 30. He did not mention when these teams will be deployed.
Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 Director Albert Ignatius Ferro said a technical team from Baguio City will be sent to Cebu City to train the contact tracers of the PRO 7.
Ferro said he sought the help of his former superior in the Philippine National Police, now Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, to train the contact tracer team in the PRO 7 next week.
Cimatu said the IATF has identified around 20 barangays in the city that will stay under lockdown even if the ECQ status of the city will be lifted.
The lockdown status will only be lifted if Covid-19 cases will decrease. Cimatu did not identify the 20 barangays.
The retired general said the village chiefs will be given the responsibility in placing their villages on lockdown and in lifting lockdowns.
Cimatu said the residents in Cebu City have started complying with the ECQ protocol based on his assessment.
In the business sector, several business leaders expressed their concerns on the ECQ status extension of Cebu City.
Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Felix Taguiam said the extension of the ECQ is not be good for the businesses community.
"We are already hard-hit. Let this be a lesson that we should not be too complacent. Let us now help Cebu get back to where it was before," he said.
Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Steven Yu said the high transmission of the virus should be controlled before restrictions can be downgraded.
Yu said business owners who take care of their own businesses also risk contracting the disease.
Philippine Retailers Association-Cebu Chapter spokesperson Robert Go said retailers "continue to bleed" under ECQ status as "they cannot go back to business."
3 LGUs on GCQ
The mayors of three local government units—Talisay City, Minglanilla and Consolacion—that are still under general community quarantine status until July 15 have urged their constituents to strictly observe quarantine protocol.
Talisay City Mayor Gerald Anthony Gullas Jr. will not appeal the decision of the IATF.
Among the 44 municipalities and six component cities of Cebu Province, Talisay City has the most number of Covid-19 cases.
As of July 1, Talisay had 302 confirmed Covid-19 cases with 142 active cases and 114 recoveries.
Gullas urged his constituents to seek medical help if they have flu-like symptoms.
"Let’s not go to the hospital only when symptoms turn from bad to worse. Ayaw agwantaha ang sintomas (Don't bear the symptoms); please report them. The key in this battle is early detection," he said.
Minglanilla followed Talisay City in Covid-19 cases. As of July 1, it had 175 positive cases with 82 active cases, 85 recoveries and eight deaths.
Minglanilla Mayor Elanito Peña has urged his constituents to wear masks when they go outside.
For his part, Consolacion Mayor Joannes Alegado urged his constituents to report to the barangay any person with flu-like symptoms such as cough, colds and fever.
As of July 1, Consolacion had 152 confirmed cases, of which 93 are active cases, 50 have recovered and nine died. (JJL, MVG, JOB & ANV)