DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu (file photo)

MANILA – Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, assigned by President Rodrigo Duterte to oversee the coronavirus response in Cebu City, recommended the retention of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) there.

“So ito ngayon ang aking ano, i-continue natin ang ECQ because to them, umpisa pa lang ito eh. Kasi noong una, na-announce iyong the increase to ECQ ay hindi kaagad na naipatupad. Kulang iyong mga pulis, hindi masyadong na-implement (My plan is to continue with the implementation of the ECQ. Because when it was first imposed, it was not properly implemented, there are not enough police forces),” Cimatu said on Tuesday.

During the regular briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Cimatu shared his observation on the ECQ in Cebu and why Covid-19 cases continue to rise in the province.

He said he already formed an advisory council on Monday composed of independent individuals, members of the Department of Health (DOH), the military and the police, and the business sector to help him in planning and forming specific guidelines in enforcing ECQ protocols.

Cimatu said the lack of isolation facilities and the location of some schools used as isolation centers, the low morale medical practitioners, lack of police personnel to enforce the guideline, and the blatant disregard for the lockdown and health protocols all contribute to the rise of Covid-19 cases in the city.

Cimatu cited a recent incident where a barangay still held a procession in celebration of a fiesta.

“Nagkaron kasi ng mass gathering sa isang barangay dito at itong barangay na ito ay very notorious kasi marami ang kanilang naging… me mga namatay dyan at nagkasakit and yet, nagkaroon pa sila ng (They had a mass gathering in a barangay here which is very notorious because of the high number of cases and death, and yet, they even had a) procession on June 27 which is really a blatant disregard of our protocols,” he said.

He said the incident is now under investigation and administrative charges were already filed against the barangay captain who gave his authority allowing the celebration of the fiesta.

Aside from that, he said other areas also violated lockdown protocols as people continue to go out of their houses even if they are supposed to stay indoors without wearing masks and practicing safe physical distancing.

Cimatu said they are also closely monitoring 12 barangays under lockdown because of high cases of Covid-19, and where the majority of the cases in Cebu came from.

Plans for Cebu

Cimatu said he is now looking for structures that can be used as isolation facilities.

“Naghanap ako ng mga ibang structures, facilities na puwedeng paglagyan ng ating mga isolation cases. Kasi iyong isolation buildings nila rito, karamihan ang mga eskuwelahan ay ito ang ginamit nilang isolation centers. Itong eskuwelahan naman nasa gitna ng barangay ito, so sinu-suspect ko talaga na dito nanggaling iyong mga pagkalat ng sakit sa mga barangays, itong isolation centers dito sa gitna ng barangay mismo (I looked for other structures where we can isolate patients because their isolation building here, mostly schools, are located in the middle of the barangay, so I suspect these to be the source of the virus),” he said.

He is looking at placing these isolation facilities out of the barangays.

He is considering the Noah Building, operated by the city government, and converting the Cebu Coliseum, just like what is being done in Manila.

He added that around 32 military personnel also arrived in Cebu from the general headquarters, which include nine doctors, 10 nurses, and health aides.

They have been immediately deployed to public hospitals.

Cimatu said once cases start to decrease, that will be that time that he would recommend a more relaxed measure, except for certain areas.

“Kasi ang rise kasi ng ano especially dito sa cases ay biglang magtaas nang husto ‘no. For the first one week ay steady ang pag-akyat. Tapos just only yesterday nag-accelerate ang mga patay—namatay from six naging 13 ang namatay. So if that is the case, kung 13 na ang namamatay dito sa isang araw, ang national data for death is only between 10 to 11 – national iyon. So ito, dito sa isang araw lang ay 13 kaagad. So medyo ano pa, nasa pataas pa iyong mga namamatay at saka including iyong mga cases, tumaas rin kaagad ng medyo umabot na ng ano eh, ng 1,500 cases na for the City of Cebu lang iyan. Compared to our highest there in NCR ay halos doble (The rise in the number of cases is fast. They were steady for the first week and then only yesterday, the number of deaths increased from six to 13. So if that is the case, they are even higher than the national data fo death which is between 10 to 11. Cases have reached 1,500, that is only for the city of Cebu, compared to our highest in NCR)”.

Cimatu is also looking at accelerating the number of tests in the province.

Arrival, departure of people from Cebu

Cimatu said arrivals of OFWs and locally stranded individuals (LSIs) may have also contributed to the rise in the number of cases.

“Nung naging center kasi dito ng mga pag-transit ng mga OFW, dito muna, baka ito naman ang possible sources na pinagmulan kasi since March hanggang May medyo maganda naman ang kanilang response sa health ng mga tao dito but nag rise ito ng nagkaroon ng movement and transit ng mga OFWs at LSIs (When Cebu became the center of transit of OFWs, maybe this is where it all started because from March to May they have good health responses until the movement of OFWs and LSIs started),” he said.

Cimatu added that there are about 12,000 LSIs in Cebu who wanted to go back to their provinces but he recommended not to allow them for now.

“Sinabi ko kay Mayor wag natin sila payagan lumabas, because of this ECQ, they have to be ano muna dito, stranded muna sila because we don’t like naman na mag mo move sila during the scenario of ECQ. (I told the mayor not to allow anyone to go out of Cebu and they have to stay during the ECQ. We don’t want them to move during the scenario of ECQ),” he said.

Cimatu advised these individuals to stay with their relatives in Cebu for the meantime and when the situation eases, they will be subjected to quarantine and testing before they will be finally allowed to return to their provinces.

“Kasi nagrereklamo po yung ibang mga probinsya dito na wag muna natin sila paalisin ditto kung hindi ma sure yung kanilang health condition na sila ay negative sa virus (Other provinces are complaining already, we will not allow them to go out unless we are sure that they are negative of the virus),” Cimatu said. (PNA)