Cebu City to appeal for lifting of lockdown

Ryan Macasero
Cebu City to appeal for lifting of lockdown
Cebu City is the only city in the country under enhanced community quarantine

CEBU CITY, Philippines – Mayor Edgar Labella will again appeal to the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) for Cebu City to be placed under general community quarantine (GCQ).

During a livestreamed public address on Tuesday, June 16, Labella said he would appeal again after already appealing to the IATF earlier this month. 

“I would like to make known [the] fact [that] last June 1, I expressed along with [the] business sector to IATF that we are ready for GCQ,” Labella said.

He added: “To the citizens of Cebu, very frankly, up to this day, I still believe that a GCQ is justified. The data I see do not warrant restrictions set forth by ECQ, with all due respect.” 

Cebu City was placed on lockdown or enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) again by the national government because it has the highest number of coronavirus cases and replication rate in the country. 

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque presented data on Cebu City from the IATF earlier on Tuesday afternoon, showing that critical cases were rising and hospitals were reaching its maximum capacities:

  • Hospitals are at full capacity for COVID-19, but officials said they are doing something about it by expanding the capacity of isolation beds
  • 45% of 60 mechanical ventilators are in use in Cebu City hospitals
  • All intensive care unit beds, a total of 27, are in use
  • 90% of the 399 isolation beds are occupied
  • 93% of the 133 ward beds in hospitals are being used

Roque urged Cebu City residents to cooperate with the new lockdown, which will last until June 30. He said “there is no other way” to curb viral transmissions, calling the city the “gateway to the Visayas.”

Cebu City is the only city in the country under ECQ.

Experts from the University of the Philippines also predicted in a June 8 study that coronavirus cases in Cebu will rise to 11,000 unless more stringent containment measures are taken. Cebu City currently has the most cases with 3,613 cases, while the province has 402 cases. (READ: ‘Cause for concern’: Experts project 11,000 coronavirus cases in Cebu by June 30)

“Doctors were alarmed at the sudden influx of admissions and severity of cases in the past week,” Labella said.

The mayor added, “So that in the end, the IATF heeded the recommendation of the medical community and a decision was made.”

In May, Department of Health-Central Visayas (DOH-7) officials said that the hospital utilization rate in Cebu City was only at 40%. The DOH considers a hospital utilization rate of 70% as the “danger zone.” 

Labella believes they can still manage the number of coronavirus cases in Cebu City even under the less strict GCQ.

In a statement on Tuesday evening, DOH-7 said they’re already working on increasing Cebu City’s bed capacity for severe cases.

“COVID-19 has highlighted deficiencies of the overall health capacity of the region,” the regional health department said.

“Social media posts have pointed out few cases where patients were refused admission in private hospitals due to already being full,” it added. 

Labella believes that businesses need to reopen in order to sustain the economy, but said he would comply with ECQ restrictions.

“Our businesses are hurting and in the meantime, I ask everyone to cooperate with the guidelines that I will be issuing in response – and in compliance – with the IATF’s decision,” he said.

Only neighboring Talisay City was placed under modified ECQ due to its rising number of coronavirus cases, while the rest of the province remain under GCQ.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Philippines has a total of 26,781 coronavirus cases, with 1,103 deaths and 6,552 recoveries. – Rappler.com

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Ryan Macasero

Ryan covers Cebu and the Visayas for Rappler. He covers all news in the region, but is particularly interested in people stories, development issues and local policy making.