EVEN if unvaccinated against coronavirus disease (Covid-19), residents can still ride public utility vehicles (PUVs) in Cebu City from Friday, Jan. 14, 2022.
Mayors of two cities in Cebu also assured Thursday that they would not impose lockdowns despite the escalation of the alert level in their areas.
Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama allayed the concerns of motorists Thursday after the Department of Transportation issued a directive preventing unvaccinated individuals from taking public transportation in Metro Manila while the region is under Alert Level 3 or higher.
On Wednesday, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases placed Cebu City and Mandaue City, along with 26 other areas in the country, under Alert Level 3 from January 14 to 31, 2022 due to the increasing number of Covid-19 cases in these areas.
Rama said while residents may take public transport regardless of vaccination status, with the rising number of Covid-19 cases in the city, they should just stay home if they have no important reason to go out so that the City can focus on its recovery efforts after Typhoon Odette (Rai).
"What will happen is, in Cebu City, our thrust is just for you to stay home. Why would you take a ride if you just stayed home while we are managing our situation?" Rama said.
Cebu City will not implement a “no vaccine, no ride” policy also because its PUVs cross other local government units (LGUs) and the mayors of these areas want a uniform policy.
Earlier, Lapu-Lapu City was also placed on Alert Level 3 status from January 9 to 15. But the rest of Cebu is still on Alert Level 2.
Rama and north district city Councilor Joel Garganera, deputy chief implementer of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), said there would be no change in the policy for receiving inbound travelers under Alert Level 3.
Garganera said travelers need only to present their Covid-19 vaccination card. If unvaccinated, they should present the negative result of an RT-PCR test taken within 72 hours or an antigen test taken within 24 hours before their travel.
However, those departing from Cebu City for other provinces, Garganera said, should first find out the policies of their LGUs of destination so they can enter these places.
Garganera said there would be no big change in Cebu City under Alert Level 3, except for the reduction in the allowable capacity of business establishments.
Under Alert Level 3, only 30 percent of venue capacity is allowed for fully vaccinated individuals in indoor establishments while outdoor venue capacity is 50 percent.
This is a reduction from the 50 percent indoor venue capacity and 70 percent outdoor venue capacity for areas under Alert Level 2.
Rama also said no lockdown would be implemented in Cebu City even amid the rising number of Covid-19 cases.
According to EOC data, Cebu City recorded 320 new cases on Thursday, Jan. 13, although Garganera said this figure might still go down after their evaluation as some might be reinfections.
On Jan. 12, the City reported 223 new cases.
As the city already had 723 active cases as of Jan. 11, this means the city’s active cases may have breached 1,000 already. Last Jan. 2, the city had only eight active cases.
The City is also not yet implementing its “no vaccination, no entry” policy in malls and other business establishments, originally slated to begin at the start of this year, as it continues to encourage more people to get vaccinated to protect themselves and others against the deadly coronavirus.
Neither Cebu City nor Mandaue City intend to appeal the IATF’s escalation of their status from Alert Level 2 to Alert Level 3, with the leaders of both cities choosing to just devote their attention to their recovery programs after the devastation caused by Typhoon Odette.
Lawyer John Eddu Ibañez, executive secretary of Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes, said: “The mayor said there’s no need to appeal kay makita man nato nga nisaka ang kaso (because we can really see the Covid-19 cases rising). Para sad ni nga mapaaus-os nato ang kaso (This is also to enable us to lower the number of cases).”
He added that the IATF’s move was based on the city’s increased positivity rate.
According to the Department of Health Central Visayas, Mandaue City logged 73 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, January 13, bringing the total number of active cases in the city to 252.
The city had only 13 active cases at the end of 2021.
Ibañez also said there would be no lockdown in the city as they will just follow the IATF guidelines on the status.
He said Cortes was not keen on implementing a lockdown or checkpoints apart from the Commission on Elections checkpoints currently enforced for the election period.
In previous reports, Cortes had said they might as well mobilize their police personnel to enforce the compliance of health protocols, particularly in establishments instead of checkpoints as this will only cause traffic congestion and chaos.
Ibañez said they would make only a few changes after the escalation of the alert level, stressing that intrazonal and interzonal travels are still allowed as well as individual outdoor exercise, apart from going out for essential purposes.
Instead of a lockdown, Ibañez said they will focus on improving and making ready their "step-down" facility located at the old two-story building of the Department of General Services that is just across the city’s hospital.
The facility, which can cater to about 70 patients, would be used as an extension of the Mandaue City Hospital for Covid-19 patients with mild symptoms to free up hospital beds for those with moderate to severe symptoms.
Only the isolation facility at the old North Bus Terminal in Barangay Subangdaku is currently operational while the Mandaue City Comprehensive National High School annex is on standby should there be a surge in cases in the coming days.
The city's EOC, per Ibañez, is ready for a possible surge in cases.
Apart from that, he stressed that they are also focusing on increasing vaccination in the city. This, even if the vaccination for the first dose seemed to be slow due to the connectivity problems in registration.
Ibañez said Cortes had directed the city's Vaccine Operations Center to start anew the vaccination for first dose, particularly in the barangay-based vaccination.
The mayor noted that the people, particularly in Metro Cebu, are still recovering from the devastation brought by Typhoon Odette, which is why they have to balance everything.
In a statement, Cortes said their focus will be on the distribution of the rice and water assistance for Typhoon Odette victims.
"Covid is a problem but not the only problem... We must concentrate our efforts in helping the Mandauehanons recover and get back on their feet," he said.
In a separate interview, Buddy Alain Ybañez, head of the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, told SunStar Cebu that about 54 percent of the city's power supply has been restored.
Ybañez said all 27 barangays had been reenergized as of Monday, January 10, although not all parts of the barangays had been reenergized.
He said some residents no longer needed the water rations as well.
Ybañez said they are still consolidating the assessment of the damage to infrastructure and properties in the city.
Further on the mobility of Cebuanos, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Central Visayas Director Eduardo Montealto Jr. told SunStar Cebu Thursday that all PUVs plying the areas in Cebu now under Alert Level 3 will still have 70 percent as their maximum passenger capacity.
Montealto said the decision to reduce the capacity of public transport lies with the chief executives of the local government units in the absence of a memorandum from the LTFRB's Central Office.
Montealto said even in Metro Manila, which is also under Alert Level 3, PUVs are still operating under the 70 percent maximum capacity.
Despite the status quo, Montealto acknowledged that there is still a shortage of public transport options in Metro Cebu since there are some drivers who did not return to the roads after the onslaught of Typhoon Odette last Dec. 16.
Montealto said only 60 percent of around 800 modern jeepneys are currently operating because most of their drivers are still busy repairing their houses that were damaged by the typhoon.
Montealto urged private companies to hire private tourist buses to compensate for the lack of public transport and to help their employees from the struggles of commuting.
Montealto added that it would take another month for the situation to return to normal.
The regional director said they are strictly implementing the maximum capacity and have been conducting apprehensions daily since last week. (PAC, CTL, MKG, IRT)
January 13, 2022
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