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CEBU, Philippines – Cebu’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), which handled many of the COVID-19 cases in the city since March 2020, has closed its doors.
Cebu City Councilor Joel Garganera, the deputy chief implementer of the EOC, confirmed to reporters that the emergency center closed on Thursday, June 1.
“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,” Garganera said.
Garganera said the city government deactivated the EOC, the office responsible for handling COVID-19 cases in the city, nearly a month after the World Health Organization declared the end of the global health emergency due to the virus.
Garganera said the Cebu City Health Department, headed by Dr. Daisy Villa, will now take responsibility for COVID-19 case management and coordination.
“It will now be up to the mayor to reactivate it again if the need arises,” Garganera said.
Based on data from the Department of Health’s (DOH) COVID-19 Tracker, the city had recorded a total of 62,185 cases in the past three years.
As of June 1, data showed that 60,481 COVID-19 patients in Cebu City recovered from the virus, while some 1,694 of those infected died.
“Recently, DOH issued a memo saying they will no longer swab asymptomatic patients for free. So we only swabbed symptomatic [patients]; so there are only a few tested individuals,” Garganera told reporters.
There was a time during the three-year global health crisis when Cebu City nearly became the Philippines’ coronavirus epicenter. This was the case until efforts to restrict movement and enhance case surveillance were intensified, and health officers coordinated with agencies like the EOC for a faster response.
As of this writing, Cebu City has only 10 active cases.
According to Garganera, the EOC started with more than 1,000 personnel, including job order employees and detailed personnel.
“Around last year, detailed workers were sent back to their mother units, and for the past months, job order employees were slowly removed,” Garganera said.
Only 88 job order employees remained active until the EOC officially ceased operations.
“All 88 were not renewed… so it was really tough for [Councilor Garganera] to break the sad news to the personnel who put their life on the line in the past three years,” said lawyer Aliko Garganera, the daughter and executive assistant of the city councilor. – Rappler.com
John Sitchon is an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow.