The enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) should remain in Cebu City, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said today, following the continued rise of COVID-19 cases in what has been declared as the new epicenter of the pandemic in the Philippines.
Cimatu, the government official tasked to spearhead the COVID-19 response in Cebu City, blamed the spike in cases to what he alleged was the residents’ disobedience of ECQ rules. He said that the situation only improved when the government sent in more members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to patrol the city, unofficially regarded as the country’s second capital.
Prior to Cimatu’s arrival, President Rodrigo Duterte claimed that Cebuanos’ overconfidence and complacency led to the worsening of the epidemic in their hometown.
“What I observed when I just came was really the non-compliance of the ECQ. The guidelines and rules that were adopted were not followed immediately. Despite the ECQ, a lot [of the residents] were violating [the rules] because there were very few policemen here at that time. But when there were additional PNP who came in, they brought in compliance,” Cimatu said in English and Filipino during an interview with cable channel ANC.
Another factor, Cimatu added, was the arrival of overseas Filipino workers and locally stranded individuals from Metro Manila who used Cebu City as their transit point.
“When there was this movement, that’s when it increased,” he said.
He also added that village officials committed the mistake of using schools as isolation centers, which led to the spread of the virus within the communities. Cimatu promised that they will move the isolation centers away from residential areas.
The secretary claimed that in one day, 13 people would die in Cebu City, higher than the number of deaths in the entire Philippines. The worsening situation makes the extension of the ECQ, the strictest form of lockdown, necessary.
“We’ll have to maintain this quarantine level here. My recommendation, it’s like a patient, it has to stop bleeding. It’s bleeding now. The cases are increasing, the number of deaths is also increasing,” he said.
“So compared to the average [deaths] for the NCR [National Capital Region] and all of the Philippines versus Cebu, it appears that it’s higher in Cebu,” Cimatu added.
Last week, nurses in private hospitals in Cebu threatened to quit over fears that they would be infected with the coronavirus. To prevent the healthcare system from collapsing, the government wanted to send a team of volunteer rural doctors to Cebu City. However, the plan was postponed after the medical workers said that it was a violation of the law.
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