COVID-19 lockdown: A checkpoint for every village in Cebu City
CEBU CITY—The city is now saturated with checkpoints, with 93 of these set up to keep residents from leaving their villages in a bid to stop coronavirus transmission in an area now being tagged as the virus’ epicenter.
At least 13 of the checkpoints are manned by policemen in fatigues along main roads. At least 80 are manned by village watchmen and volunteers in interior roads at each of the city’s 80 villages.
The military also deployed armored personnel carriers and two helicopters.
The helicopters are being used to drop leaflets with government reminders on COVID-19 protocols and for aerial surveillance of areas in the city, according to Col. Cydric Earl Tamayo, acting city police chief.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año ordered the cancellation of all 250,000 quarantine passes in the city effective at 10 p.m. on June 23 after seeing that people continued to loiter the streets in defiance of the lockdown, or enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), on the city.
People, who want to buy food, can do so only within their villages. Exempt from the lockdown are health care workers, call center agents and bank employees.
Año was in Cebu City with Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu who was designated by President Rodrigo Duterte as his point man to stop the surge of coronavirus infections.
As of 3 p.m. on June 24, Cebu City has 4,479 COVID-19 cases, 89 deaths and 2,177 recoveries.
But several residents were caught off guard by the quarantine pass cancellation.
“The cancellation of quarantine passes was done abruptly. We were not able to prepare,” said 32-year-old Reggie Maratas, a resident of Tisa village, who rushed to a grocery store early Wednesday to buy basic goods for his family.
A woman in her 50s pleaded with a policeman on Wednesday to allow her to cross the street and buy food and medicines for her three children.
The policeman had reprimanded her for going outside her village, Sambag I.
Although the market and pharmacies were just across the street, these were already at another village, Pahina Central.
Anxious shoppers formed long lines at grocery stores within their villages here and cleared some shelves of essential items.
Councilor Dave Tumulak said the national government should have presented clear guidelines about the cancellation of quarantine passes so people in the city would know what to do.
“I, too, was shocked when I learned about the development past midnight (of Wednesday). People didn’t know how to buy food and other necessities,” he said in a radio interview.
Tamayo appealed to residents to heed the rules or face arrest.
“What our policemen did was to first warn them. If they resist, then we have to arrest them,” Tamayo said.
Tamayo said police had also requested for reinforcement from the military.
He said the police and military will focus on at least nine villages that are seeing the highest number of COVID-19 cases.
These are the villages of Mambaling, Luz, Labangon, Suba, Kamputhaw, Tejero, Sambag II, Duljo Fatima and Basak San Nicolas.
Authorities are also closely monitoring the Cebu City Jail which was also reporting a surge in coronavirus infections among inmates.
Mayor Edgar Labella appealed to residents to remain calm and heed health protocols.
“I know this is a difficult time for everyone,” Labella said.
“There will be difficult days ahead but let’s keep our eyes on our common goal which is to save our community from this pandemic,” he said in a video message posted on Facebook.
“I ask you to stay calm and to be understanding as we work out details in coordination with DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government) and national agencies,” he added.
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