EARLY this month, Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella sought the understanding of bar owners who had been pushing for a lift of the liquor ban, asking at least two weeks to assess the situation. “Tagai sa ta’g laing one to two weeks to assess the situation. Kung magsige gyud ni’g ubos, then we will seriously consider (to lift the liquor ban),” the mayor said on April 8, 2021 in a virtual presser.
The liquor ban, the mayor said, proved effective in bringing down the number of cases in the city. “As far as I know, ang liquor ban dako gyud og natabang. Naa man gud tay kinaiya mga Sugboanon, kining tagay-tagay na usa ra ka baso ang gamiton sa nag-inom, nagpundok (The liquor ban helped. We Cebuanos have this practice to gather and pass around our drinking glass),” the mayor said.
To recall, the mayor issued Executive Order (EO) 117, which reinstalled the liquor ban in restaurants and public spaces on Feb. 3, 2021, after a spike in number of new transmissions. We had 88 new cases on Feb. 1, in addition to the 1,504 cases reported by the Department of Health (DOH) Central Visayas, an increase that the mayor himself attributed to the reopening of drinking establishments in the city. It pushed the city to the brink of another outbreak, a “serious concern,” as the Octa Research Group warned.
The mayor said EO 117 didn’t appear out of thin air. The Cebu City Police Office itself noted an abuse among establishments disregarding minimum health protocols such as physical distancing.
“Many of them have already caused this spike because there is no more control,” the mayor said in issuing the EO.
Which brings us to the end of the two-week leeway that the mayor asked to contemplate on whether or not to allow the reopening of drinking establishments in the city.
While the concern of establishment owners is worth addressing, the city can at best weigh a number of factors in granting a ban lift in public drinking. Is it really worth it? When the city decided to reimpose the liquor ban via EO 117 on Feb. 3, it certainly was informed not just by the DOH’s report of surge in transmissions, but also by weighing other odds. “We cannot go back to losing the economy again if we go back to GCQ (general community quarantine),” then said the mayor, which was an indirect admission that the city has more to gain economically if we stay on course with our quarantine control than reopening a business sector that apparently failed to police its ranks. Also, we’d rather that our policemen focus on the communities rather than split their efforts monitoring people guzzling their hearts out into becoming oblivious super-spreaders. By all means, if they want to get soused up to kingdom come, let it be in their private spaces.
So maybe not just yet. We’re hardly free from the danger when the nature of transmissions easily catches itself like wildfire. Yes, not when we have the capital region still staggering from a recent wave. Not while our laboratories are still probing into the transmissibility of the new variants. Not when the vaccines are still coming by the trickle, when we’re still on baby steps towards an economic recovery.
The City, by all means, can allow the economy to move again as zealously as it can, but with caution, excluding the sectors that pose more risk than good.