AFTER recording 61,831 people who tested positive for Covid-19 with 1,805 deaths in the past three years, Cebu City’s Covid-19 response unit Emergency Operations Center (EOC) stopped its operations on May 31, 2023, leaving its 88 job order employees jobless.
“We’ve been through a lot for the past three years. Blood, sweat, and tears -- we gave it our all to protect as many lives and livelihoods as possible. And then it’s time,” an emotional Cebu City Councilor Joel Garganera, EOC’s deputy chief implementer, told reporters in a message on Thursday, June 1, 2023.
The Cebu City Government spent more than P2.5 billion for programs and measures it had taken to combat the effects of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak since 2020, which Mayor Michael Rama has ordered to be looked into.
But fear of the disease has now waned, especially after the World Health Organization announced on May 5, 2023 that Covid-19 no longer qualifies as a global health emergency, though it said the pandemic remained.
Garganera said with the deactivation of the EOC, all Covid-19-related concerns will now be transferred to the Cebu City Health Department.
However, Rama told SunStar Cebu Thursday that although the EOC had ceased operations, it could be reactivated if the need arises.
Handling the wave
Former Inter-Agency Task Force-Visayas Chief Implementer Melquiades Feliciano led the establishment of the EOC in March 2020 when the first wave of Covid-19 cases hit Cebu City.
Cebu City was once dubbed by Interior Secretary Eduardo Año as the country’s epicenter for Covid-19 for having the highest rate of Covid-19 infections relative to its population in June 2020.
The EOC was responsible for the conduct of surveillance, monitoring and reviewing of Covid-19 protocols, among others.
Former President Rodrigo Duterte commended the creation of the EOC, which was considered one of Cebu’s best practices in Covid-19 response at the community level.
Before its closure, the EOC recorded a total of 61,831 Covid-19 patients with 59,926 recoveries, 1,805 deaths, and 103 remaining active cases, on May 30.
The EOC had its operation center in a portion of the Cebu City Quarantine Center (CCQC) located at Block 27 in the North Reclamation Area.
The EOC started with more than 1,000 personnel, composed of both job order and detailed employees.
The 88 remaining EOC personnel are mostly nursing attendants and assistants.
Garganera said that in 2022, when the Covid-19 situation started to improve, the regular personnel were slowly assigned back to their respective mother units while job order employees had slowly been removed in the past months.
City Administrator Collin Rosell told SunStar Cebu Thursday that job order employees are hired to augment the manpower of a particular project, adding the City may be questioned if it has a lot of job order employees.
Rama said since the EOC has already been institutionalized, it will be reactivated should there be health emergencies.
“If and when emergency requires, all those personnel (who are part of the EOC), for any challenge of health, they will act as transformers, avatar, mobile legends, meaning (they will be assembled),” said Rama.
Rama, in the same interview, said he had asked his special assistant and City Lawyer Jerone Castillo to check the budget the City had spent since 2020 on the Covid-19 response.
SunStar Cebu tried to get the total spending of the City for its Covid-19 responses, but to no avail.
In 2020 alone, the City spent P2.5 billion for its pandemic response.
When the pandemic first hit, the mayor was Edgardo Labella. Twenty months later, in November 2021, the then vice mayor Rama took over as mayor upon Labella’s passing from a lingering illness.
As for the fate of the City’s Covid-19 quarantine centers, the CCQC, built in a month at a cost of P59 million, will remain open, according to Cebu City Councilor Jocelyn Pesquera, manager of the health facility.
However, the Cebu City Government’s memorandum of agreement with Bigfoot Studios management for the use of the New Normal Oasis for Adaptation and a Home (Noah) Complex, situated in Bigfoot Studios in the South Road Properties, was no longer renewed in July 2022.
Noah was used as a quarantine center until May 2021, and later as a Covid-19 vaccination site.
Pesquera said the CCQC has catered to an average of three patients daily since January 2023. It has 120 remaining beds.
She said aside from the EOC, a portion of the CCQC is also used as a Covid-19 quarantine center of the personnel of the Philippine National Police.
Pesquera is just waiting for the plans of the mayor for the CCQC. (JJL)
June 02, 2023
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