Malilong: Preparing for life under GCQ

The Other Side

THE regional office of the Department of Health claims that the number of Covid-19 cases in Cebu City “has been going down slowly.” Since when did the decline occur and how slowly, the DOH is not saying, except that the city no longer logs 100 cases daily.

But I will take the DOH 7’s word even if I would have preferred that they had given us specific numbers. The health department’s national Covid-19 dashboard two days ago did show that Central Visayas was below other regions in terms of newly recorded cases although it was still second, but a distant one, to the National Capitol Region in the category of active cases. And there’s retired general Roy Cimatu, the Inter-Agency Task Force overseer in Cebu, expressing confidence that we will be finally shifting from the more restrictive modified enhanced community quarantine to general community quarantine by July 31.

But let me ask a few questions on our preparedness for life under GCQ.

One. Are we now more capable than we used to be of following protocols that are meant to protect us such as the wearing of masks, maintaining social distancing and observing personal hygiene? Have we learned anything from our previous experience when we behaved like there was no pandemic only to be reminded grimly of its existence with a spike in coronavirus infections?

The current NCR situation offers a cautionary tale. The President kept it under GCQ on July 1, leaving Cebu as the only local government unit in the entire country under ECQ, even if modified, an unwanted distinction that Mayor Edgar Labella’s critics and political enemies, some of them dressed as friends, quickly exploited.

NCR now accounts for more than 50 percent of active coronavirus cases in the country, logging more than 1,000 newly announced cases lately. The joke, a bad one admittedly, is that Cimatu and the Special Forces will be pulled out of Cebu to instill discipline among the matitigas ang ulo in the capital.

Keeping us from crowding the streets and other public places will be a huge challenge, as will the wearing of masks when venturing out of our homes. The much maligned quarantine passes appear to be working but a large part of that could be attributed to fear of the heavily armed policemen and soldiers. The sad fact, however, is that these law enforcers and peacekeepers have bigger things to do than catching those who go out without masks or passes. We have to adopt personal discipline as a way of life.

Two. If, God forbid, we are visited with another upsurge in Covid cases, do we already have enough hospital beds to accommodate patients and trained health care personnel to attend to them ? Recall that one of the reasons President Duterte sent Cimatu to Cebu was to make sure that every sick one gets medical treatment. What is our hospital utilization rate now?

The lack of hospital rooms is not peculiar to Cebu, by the way. It is an even bigger problem in countries like the United States. Hospitals were not built and are not operated in contemplation of a pandemic.

The sight of patients waiting in emergency rooms for hours was a new one though and it made us panic. People were screaming that the hospitals were overwhelmed and it was the fault of government. Excuse me?

When Labella built the Cebu City Quarantine Center, he was pilloried for spending money on a new edifice when he could have used the Cebu City Medical Center. The fact, however, is that in its present state the CCMC is useless. The mayor also knows that it will take time to finish construction of the entire building so he decided to make do with the first three floors for the use of Covid patients from Cebu City.

But here comes his vice mayor, Michael Rama, objecting to the plan because he wants the entire hospital completed before it is opened to the public. His timeline? Before the end of his term and that of the current officials. That’s almost two years away. And two years lost.

Come on, Mike. The pandemic will not start in 2022. It is already upon us and it is not even coterminous with your term.


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