CEBU, Philippines — Some three weeks since President Duterte assigned him to oversee Cebu’s fight against coronavirus, Secretary Roy Cimatu yesterday declared he is optimistic that the enhanced community quarantine in Cebu City may finally be downgraded to general community quarantine by July 16.
But just the same, he said, the sequential lockdowns will have to be maintained.
“I’m very optimistic that the ECQ will be downgraded to GCQ by July 16. We just have to cooperate here in the city para di na madagdagan ang rate of growth of infection dito sa Cebu City,” Cimatu said in a virtual press conference yesterday.
The Department of Health earlier identified Cebu City, Cebu province, Lapu-Lapu City, and Mandaue City as among the top 6 hot spots of COVID-19 in the country, along with Quezon City and Manila. But Cimatu said there are certain parameters that the Inter-Agency Task Force and DOH experts will look into in determining whether an area is qualified for GCQ status.
“It’s not only a matter of number of cases. Maraming parameters pa na ginagamit,” he said.
No less than President Rodrigo Duterte ordered Cimatu mid-June to oversee the situation in Cebu City when it became apparent that the city was emerging to be the epicenter of COVID-19 in the country.
Although his task was to give the president a “real picture” of the situation here, Cimatu, a retired general known for his troubleshooting skills, said he went the extra mile with the help of his deputy implementer, another retired general Mel Feliciano.
Cimatu recommended that Cebu City be placed on an extended ECQ after June 30, which was approved by the rest of the IATF and President Duterte.
Since then, Cimatu has been going back and forth to Cebu to make sure that things are getting better.
Boost on bed capacity
Yesterday, Cimatu once again met hospital owners and representatives, along with the DOH-7 Director Jaime Bernadas, Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella and other stakeholders, to get updates on hospital capacity and the current state of the health workers.
In the meeting, private hospitals agreed to further expand their bed capacity for COVID-19 as long as the government gives them additional manpower and other support.
Labella, for his part, reiterated his promise that the city government will give P10,000 in incentive to each health worker in private hospitals in the city.
Private hospitals warmly welcomed Labella’s promise, especially in light of the situation that has forced many nurses to either resign or go on unauthorized absences.
“As we increase the capacity of hospital beds dedicated for COVID, we also need the government support in providing as nurses, and doctors which DOH is addressing now. We are also grateful for what mayor Labella said. This will definitely increase and boost the morale and stop those resigning steadily,” said Potenciano “Yong” Larrazabal III, president of Cebu Doctors’ Group of Hospitals.
Higher pay, insurance for nurses
Bernadas also said a newly-hired nurse in the government hospital now gets P28,000 a month as against only P15,000 in a privately-owned hospital.
Feliciano also revealed that top businessman Ramon Ang is giving life insurance to 5,000 health workers here with coverage up to P2 million.
The NOAH Complex at the South Road Properties is also expanding to accommodate more asymptomatic patients in response to IATF’s call to pull out patients on home quarantine for better monitoring and even those who are in schools converted as barangay isolation centers.
The city’s contact tracing capabilities are also expected to improve soon with Baguio City Mayor Benajmin Magalong’s help.
‘ECQ paying off’
Cimatu also took note that the Cebuanos’ behavior have already changed.
He said they have been following the ECQ guidelines and protocols and only a few have violated the rules.
“Ang magandang nangyari dito because of the ECQ, naiba yung behavior of the populace. Just stay at home, mataas na ang compliance. Ang compliance kasi noon medyo siguro, 50% lang or 60%. Ngayon, kokonti na lang ang mga tao dyan sa labas. ECQ is paying off already,” said Cimatu.
The retired general made it clear, though, that even if Cebu City gets a less strict classification, there will still be lockdown in some specific areas.
“For example, now, we have the top 20 barangays. Nandyan yung mga pockets of infections of some sitio, some puroks or in one block in these barangays. Yun lang ang ila-lockdown natin. It will be managed and supervised by the local government unit, the barangay captains and, of course, with the help of the PNP,” he said.
Even if Cebu City will have been under GCQ, Cimatu said they will remain here for a few more weeks to ensure that the protocols and guidelines are still properly implemented to prevent another surge of cases.
“We will still be here beyond July 16 to ensure that the procedure will be followed, whatever the decision of the City Council through their ordinances na kanilang gagawin. Nandyan din naman sa IATF doctrines/guidelines/protocols,” he said. JMD (FREEMAN)