Ormoc, Cebu province among emerging coronavirus hotspots, says DOH

The Department of Health (DOH) included Ormoc City and the province of Cebu among  the “emerging hotspots” of the coronavirus outbreak in the Philippines on Wednesday, June 24.

DOH Undersecretary Maria Vergeire said the 5 areas – all located in the Visayas  – were the “emerging hotspots” due to the brisk rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in these places. These are:

“The cases in the places mentioned are not many, but we see that the rate the cases are increasing in the mentioned areas,” Vergeire said in Filipino.

“The national government immediately gave assistance to stop the spread of the virus,” the health undersecretary added.

Taking over Cebu City’s response is national coronavirus Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) because of the skyrocketing infections in the city. 

Cebu City reported 60 new infections, bringing the total cases to 4,539 on Wednesday, June 24. At least 11 new deaths were reported, raising the toll to 100, or a case fatality rate of 2%.

On Tuesday evening, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) cancelled all quarantine passes here without warning after the agency observed there were too many people still crowding in public spaces. (READ: Central Visayas police cancel all Cebu City quarantine passes)

Cebu province counts 669 coronavirus cases so far, with 166 recoveries and 61 deaths as of posting.

A month prior on May 23, DOH-Central Visayas reported only 102 cases in Cebu Province, which has been under the less-restrictive general community quarantine since May 20.

Eastern Visayas cases rising

Eastern Visayas reported an acceleration of infections in the past month. From 26 coronavirus cases on May 25, the region now has 435 COVID-19 cases. 

Here's the breakdown.

These provinces enjoyed low infection rates until the national government began its Balik Probinsya, Hatid Probinsya and repatriation programs for overseas Filipino Workers late. (READ: Bong Go's Balik Probinsya trips suspended)

Ormoc City, for example, only got its first case on May 21, when a Balik Probinsya beneficiary tested positive in the city.

“All of these happened and entered Ormoc within the last 3 weeks only,” Ormoc Mayor Richard Gomez told Rappler in a text message. “They all came from either Cebu or Ormoc thru the Balik Probinsya, Hatid Probinsya or the OWWA program, or those who were given travel authority by the PNP from their place of origin,” he added.

Gomez said that all returning residents are isolated for 14 days in city-owned facilities and tested before being allowed to return to their homes.

In a June 20 advisory, the Department of Health Eastern Visayas issued a memo warning that the health system in the Eastern Visayas could be overwhelmed before the end of the month if the increase in infections are unabated.

“Our health systems might be overwhelmed given that patients will either be in hospital or a quarantine facility for 14 days which will also deplete our resources, especially our human resources,” the department’s director Minerva Molon said in a statement. (READ: Disorganized repatriation program puts E. Visayas rural healthcare at risk)

 There were 470 new coronavirus cases in the Philippines, pushing the total number of infections up to 32,295 cases.

A University of the Philippines study predicted that the Philippines may hit 40,000 cases by the end of June of the contagion is not contained. – Rappler.com

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.