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CEBU CITY, Philippines – Cebu City’s COVID-19 positivity rate increased from only 0.61% on January 1 to 43.03% on January 16, according to data from the city Emergency Operations Center (EOC).
Data from Cebu City councilor Joel Garganera, head of the EOC, showed that the city recorded 505 infections in a single day on Saturday, January 15. This was the city’s largest number of COVID-19 cases tallied in one day in two years of the pandemic.
The EOC’s total active cases figure for Monday, January 17 was 506.
Garganera during a press briefing on Monday said one of the biggest sources of transmission is dining in public spaces.
“We can’t afford the cases to skyrocket. We need to control our basic protocol, our enforcement, because this would affect our livelihoods,” Garganera said in a mix of Cebuano and English.
“Because of the rising cases, we have been testing more people, especially on the side of our contact tracing,” he added.
Testing in the city, which was badly hit by Typhoon Odette in December 2021, tapered off from pre-typhoon levels of between around 2,000 tests daily to only two digits between January 1 to 5.
It only crawled back past the 1,000 tests per day mark on January 13.
The collapse of power systems in the Visayas affected hospital operations and laboratories. The Visayan Electric Company (VECO) returned power to three hospitals on December 19 and gradually brought back electricity to other areas. On Monday, January 17, VECO said it had restored power in 70% of franchise areas.
Garganera said most infected folk in the city were between 21 to 30 years old, working-class residents from service companies, including hospitals.
“Our workers don’t get their infections from the bank or establishments. They get it during their break time when they eat together outside,” the councilor said in Cebuano.
The EOC said that contact-tracing reports on January 17 showed that 310 individuals got their infection within the workplace, in supermarkets, hospitals and public markets, and strolling around neighborhoods.
“So please, if we are going out to eat, let’s not invite people for now. Let us eat by ourselves first because it is really difficult when we eat; we have these conversations, and then we put our guard down,” Garganera said in a mix of Cebuano and English.
The EOC chief said the rise in Cebu City infections shows similar characteristics to surges in areas that have detected the Omicron variant.
But he said Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, chief pathologist of the Department of Health in Central Visayas (DOH 7), was still waiting for results of the samples they sent to the Philippine Genome Center last week.
Garganera also said infectious disease specialist Dr. Bryan Lim expects the surge to gradually decrease within two to four weeks.
More enforcement, more cells against COVID-19
Cebu City mayor Michael Rama announced in a press conference on Monday, January 17, that the city has requested more cops from the Philippine National Police to help combat the rise of cases.
“I just talked to PRO-7 (Central Visayas) Director Roque Eduardo Vega and he is already working on it. In fact, I am connecting with Senator Bong Go to be a conduit to help remind them,” he said.
Rama added that he has also seen congested detention cells in at least three police stations and feared that these may become “spreading grounds” of COVID-19.
The mayor said he has reached out to the private sector, the Cebu Contractors’ Association, and the Cebu Chamber of Commerce, to ask for container vans that will be used as extensions for the city’s detention cells.
In terms of strict adherence to protocols, however, Rama clarified that they are not yet implementing the “No vax, No ride” nor the “No vax, No entry in establishments,” to give way to people who were still trying to get vaccinated.
At present, the city now allows non-residents to get their second dose or booster shots in the city’s vaccination sites. – Rappler.com