COVID-19 death rate ‘slightly up’ in Cebu City just as Duterte eases lockdown

Downtown Cebu City <i>Photo: Wikicommons</i>
Downtown Cebu City Photo: Wikicommons

Coronavirus-related deaths in Cebu City are increasing, its mayor declared today, a day after the national government eased the quarantine imposed in the area.

“[The death rate from COVID-19] went up slightly. Admittedly, although our recovery rates are up, our fatality rates are also up, it went from 0.8% to 3 or 4% mortality rate,” Cebu City Mayor Edgar Labella told ABS-CBN’s news show Teleradyo.

Labella did not mention which period the uptick was recorded but noted that the city logged virtually zero fatalities in May. He chalked up the rise in COVID-19 cases to the city’s widespread contact tracing and admitted that they are challenged by the increasing number of coronavirus patients in hospitals.

“We are undertaking a very massive contact tracing…because of our massive contact tracing, cases have increased,” Labella said.

“Our problem is we only about eight or nine Level 3 hospitals, [these are facilities] that would admit patients not just coming from Cebu City, but neighboring provinces in Visayas, who come here to be treated. It’s better in Manila, where they have about 46 Level 3 hospitals,” he added.

Hospitals in the Philippines fall under three levels, with Level 1 the most basic, and Level 3 referring to facilities that are capable of high-level specialty interventions like dialysis treatment, and currently, treating COVID-19 patients.

Labella noted that while there’s an increase in COVID-19 cases in the past month, infected cases have slowed down in the last four days. He claims that the recovery rate among the city’s residents climbed to 53%, the highest in the country.

Read: Cebu City nurses planning to quit as hospitals see spike in COVID-19 cases

President Rodrigo Duterte has blamed Cebuano’s complacency for the spike of infections on the island, but today Labella reiterated an earlier statement that he made that the lack of space in slum areas, where many patients are from, is making social distancing difficult.

“Some houses [are] so close to each other that they are separated by mere walls…but we are planning to address these challenges,” he reaffirmed.

“We have to be very strict and relentless… Cebu City is the center, it has about 10 ports all over the island. It’s the gateway to neighboring provinces in Visayas and Mindanao. Food and essential goods pass through here…We still have to do a lot of things, let’s couple it with prayers,” he said.

The government announced last night that Duterte has downgraded Cebu City’s enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) — the strictest lockdown— to a slightly looser form, called the modified ECQ effective until July 31. Under modified ECQ, Cebu City’s public transport will remain suspended, and residents are still required to present quarantine passes when entering establishments, but outdoor exercise will be allowed as long as social distancing is observed.

To date, Cebu City has a total of 7,685 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 389 deaths, and 4,141 recoveries.

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