AS CEBU City’s quarantine restrictions ease up on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020, seaports are starting to reopen but only for locally stranded individuals (LSIs) going in and out of the city.
Councilor Joel Garganera, Cebu City Covid-19 Task Force on Seaports and Coastal Areas chairman, said three groups are expected to arrive in ports as the city downgrades its status from modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) to general community quarantine (GCQ) from Aug. 1 to Aug. 15.
These are Cebu City residents, Cebu Province residents, and transient passengers.
Garganera said to be allowed entry, Cebu City residents stranded outside Cebu only need to secure a travel authority from the office of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the area where they are stranded and present a valid ID to prove residency in Cebu City.
Meanwhile, residents of Cebu Province who want to return to their hometowns need to secure a medical certificate or a certificate showing a negative result of either a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or rapid diagnostic test, PNP travel authority, and a letter of acceptance issued by the mayor of the receiving local government unit (LGU).
The letter of acceptance has to be presented to the shipping line for the LSI to be allowed to leave port upon arrival.
“For Cebu Province, they cannot go out of the port unless a vehicle from their respective LGUs will pick them up,” Garganera said in Cebuano.
For transient passengers passing through Cebu City ports en route to provinces outside Cebu, Garganera said shipping companies have agreed to accommodate only those who can show a pre-booked ticket to their destination.
“We are not allowing passengers to go inside the port without their boat tickets, so please secure your tickets before going to the pier area,” Garganera said.
He urged the public to check the websites of shipping companies for vessel schedules and online tickets.
All arriving Cebu City residents will be brought to a staging area at the back of Malacañang sa Sugbo at the Port Area for orientation of the city’s basic health protocols.
Passengers coming from Manila will have a separate staging area, Garganera said.
A bus will ferry the LSIs from the port to the staging area.
While in the bus, they will be asked to fill out an information sheet. The forms will be collated by staff of the Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) who will then assign the LSIs to buses that will take them home to their respective barangays.
Arriving Cebu City residents who will be picked up by a private vehicle need to secure a barangay clearance and inform the barangay about their arrival.
Garganera said depending on results of their discussions with the Cebu City Health Department, the Emergency Operations Center is considering to conduct a rapid diagnostic test for all arriving Cebu City residents subject to the availability of testing kits.
Upon arrival, returning residents will have to undergo 14 days of home quarantine.
Garganera said village chiefs have been tasked to monitor the LSIs’ compliance with the quarantine rule.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic slammed into the lives of Cebuanos, Cebu City accommodated an average of 13,000 arriving passengers and 12,000 outgoing passengers daily.
Garganera said the aim is not to congest the ports even though LSIs are scrambling to go home.
Around 18,000 LSIs are currently stranded in Cebu City.
Meanwhile, Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella said strict quarantine protocols would still be in place, especially in the early stages of the GCQ.
He plans to recommend to the Regional Inter-Agency Task Force (RIATF) the continued validity of the quarantine passes.
Labella had yet to issue GCQ guidelines as of this writing, but Police Regional Office-Central Visayas (PRO 7) Director Brig. Gen. Albert Ignatius Ferro announced border and quarantine checkpoints will continue in Cebu City.
“We cannot repeat the same mistake that we had last June 1 to 15. Before the ECQ, some Cebuanos never observed the proper protocols. Now, minimum health standards such as wearing of face masks and practicing social distancing should be normalized,” Ferro told reporters.
Ferro asked Camp Crame to retain the augmentation forces from Regions 6 and 8 and the Special Action Force (SAF) to help ensure that quarantine measures are strictly enforced.
“I won’t remove all my checkpoints. I won’t remove all my Quarantine Control Points (QCPs). They will stay there,” Ferro added.
Those under ages 21 and 60 and above are still not allowed to go out of their homes unless to conduct essential business.
Cebu City’s positivity rate is now down to 6.8 percent from 32 percent three weeks ago, said Garganera.
The positivity rate refers to the percentage of people who test positive for Covid-19 in the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction test out of all those who were tested.
The drop in cases was largely due to the city’s MECQ status, he added.
“My fear is until there are still Covid positive, everything is fragile,” Garganera said.
Cebu City reported 37 new cases on July 31, bringing its total number of Covid-19 cases to 9,000. It has 3,292 active cases, 5,202 recoveries and 506 deaths.
Meanwhile, Mandaue City will remain under GCQ from Aug. 1 to 15, according to President Rodrigo Duterte during a speech on Friday,
Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes said he respects the decision of the National Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases and believes this was based on scientific data.
Mandaue City’s Covid-19 cases ballooned from 281 patients on June 1 to 1,798 cases two months later on July 30. There are 82 deaths recorded.
With the reopening of the economy, business leaders advised small businesses to have their employees tested in the free PCR testing offered by government.
“Businesses will have to move on now after months of closure, but it must be done with great caution,” said Felix Taguiam, president of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and
Philippine Retailers Association Cebu Chapter spokesperson Robert Go said retailers are raring to open.
“Downtown stores have more chance of getting back on their feet since they are selling basic items for the low and medium class which need these low-priced items,” Go said. (KFD, JOB, AYB)