CEBU, Philippines — Health authorities will now stop the mass testing at Sitio Zapatera, Barangay Luz, the epicenter of coronavirus in Cebu City, as the Department of Health now considers the entire area “infected.”
City Health Officer Daisy Villa made the announcement after 24 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Sitio Zapatera yesterday and three others in Lapu-Lapu City, bringing total cases in Cebu to 90, latest data from DOH-7 showed. Sitio Zapatera is home to about 800 households.
Villa said the recommendation from DOH followed after contact tracing was established.
“The whole area is already considered as infected. Na-contact trace naman nato. Based sa atong nakuha, dunay positive cases sa duha ka tumoy (sa sitio),” Villa said.
Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella announced that the 24 new positive cases from the infected Sitio Zapatera were asymptomatic or not showing any symptoms of the disease. The 24 additional cases mean that the total number of positive cases in the city is now 77.
On Tuesday, 22 cases were confirmed, mostly from the same sitio. Labella credited the spike to the ongoing mass testing. He said that the city government is coordinating with DOH and barangay officials, and they have decided to isolate the asymptomatic cases at Barrio Luz National High School, just within the vicinity of the infected sitio.
Labella said the school can accommodate 50 patients. Beddings and other things needed by the patients are now being prepared at the facility.
He clarified, though, that only the patients residing in Sitio Zapatera, Barangay Luz will be housed at the school. As for those who are symptomatic, they will be brought to the hospital.
Luz barangay captain Ronilio Sab-a said they are now preparing the school where the asymptomatic cases will be brought. Among those who tested positive from Zapatera were two nine-month-old infants, a girl and a boy, who will not be housed at the school but at the Cebu City Medical Center.
Sab-a said there is still no plan to put the whole barangay under lockdown but assured that the sitio is isolated from the rest of the community.
“Kay gi-lock down ang Sitio Zapatera kay isolated man siya na lugar, naa siya lahi na community. So pwede kana siya i-lock down… Unya sa mga test na prove man nga daghan na gyud positive, so kailangan na gyud siya i-lockdown,” the village chief said.
Sab-a expressed thanks that aside from the help of the city government, the barangay has also received donations from different organizations and private individuals. He is requesting residents to understand the situation and listen to instructions.
“Maximum tolerance ta para ma-minimize nato ang cases. Stay at home lang ta, di na ta magpagahi og ulo karon. Understand the situation nga huot gyud na ang mga balay dira, pero the best way nga malikayan gyud ni siya kay to stay at home,” he said.
‘At an Advantage’
Labella said the City Health Office is also conducting swab testing in other barangays.
“The other barangays, nag-sige sab karon. The CHO, in coordination with DOH, nag-istorya with Director (Jaime) Bernadas. He assured us that they will continue with the testing. Ingnon nalang nato nga we are at an advantage because we have about 30,000 testing kits so we can proceed with the testing,” he said.
As to the idea of locking down the whole Barangay Luz, Labella said “everything is possible, but for now we are closely monitoring.”
He said the center at the old campus of Sacred Heart School on General Maxilom Avenue will be ready to take patients by Saturday.
By next week, another 200 beds will be prepared at the newly-built structure at the North Reclamation Area. The International Eucharistic Congress pavilion in Barangay Mabolo can also house 500 to 1,000 people, while a shipping line has also offered to open its ship to serve as a facility if ever the cases increase drastically.
Labella said police will be augmenting its forces with the military. More checkpoints will be conducted.
“I would to take this opportunity kay daghan man mo nagreklamo nga grabe ang traffic. We are very strict with the checkpoints, so I would like to appeal to the people of the city to stay home rather than go out because this is a very terrible problem we are facing,” he said.
“I don’t want to sound alarming but at least I want the people to know that this is not just an ordinary problem, so we have to take extra precautionary measures,” he added.
In a related development, the three new cases in Lapu-Lapu are from Barangays Gun-ob, Canjulao, and Babag.
Mayor Junard Chan said the city workers are now disinfecting the areas last visited by the individuals. Their respective homes have also been cordoned off. Chan himself was also tested for the virus and yielded negative result.
DOH-7: Expect more cases
Bernadas, for his part, also attributed the rising number of cases in Cebu City to the mass testing.
In a statement released by Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas, the DOH-7 chief said that mass testing will also measure the effectiveness of the containment measures put in place by local governments within their territorial jurisdictions.
“Kung how effective atong containment measures will be done and how effective our testing coverage will be, that will determine how the future of COVID will be for Cebu City,” he said.
Bernadas added that there will be a more aggressive approach in identifying areas with clusters of influenza like illnesses (ILI), aside from those that have already been currently identified.
“We will be able to catch early cases and isolate the patients accordingly. So diperensya man gud ni nga makita nato sila early on nga nag sugod palang ba ang usa ka kaso aron makuha dayon nato siya kung ma positibo siya, isolate dayon siya,” he said.
Now that Cebu City government has donated 30,000 test kits to Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center and DOH 7, testing in the affected sitios within barangays identified as having confirmed COVID-19 cases, is expected to be faster and easier. JMD (FREEMAN)