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Cebu City records another virus surge

DOH cites people’s mobility during Christmas, New Year holidays for increase in COVID-19 cases
/ 04:30 AM January 15, 2021

CEBU CITY — Barely four months since it overcame a surge in coronavirus cases, this city recorded another spike in COVID-19 infections, which health officials said had quintupled in just two weeks.

Data from the Department of Health (DOH) in Central Visayas showed that Cebu City’s active cases went up from 81 on Dec. 27, 2020, to 460 on Jan. 13.

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The city, as of Wednesday, had recorded 11,241 COVID-19 cases, of which 460 were classified as active. It posted 10,083 recoveries and 698 deaths.

The new infections included at least 33 medical and other health-care workers from a government hospital.

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The regional DOH attributed the surge in cases to the people’s mobility during the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Councilor Joel Garganera, chair of the city’s Emergency Operations Center, said he would ask Mayor Edgardo Labella to strictly enforce quarantine passes in all areas and establishments.

RELIGIOUS GATHERING With health protocols in place, devotees and residents of Cebu City attend Mass to mark the start of the Fiesta Señor celebration at Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño last week. Local officials also canceled major events in the city this month to contain the spread of the virus. —PHOTO COURTESY OF BASILICA MINORE DEL STO. NIÑO

Not ready

Garganera said the center was also planning to revive quarantine checkpoints, warning health protocol violators of arrest and fine.

“We are trying to resuscitate our economy by trying to be lenient in some aspects of the protocols but it seems people are not being compliant,” he said.

Cebu City was once considered the second epicenter of COVID-19 in the country after Metro Manila due to a sharp rise in cases in June last year. Three months later, the cases went down and the city was placed under a modified general community quarantine, the most relaxed quarantine classification in the country.

The city was enjoying single-digit increases in COVID-19 cases in November and early December until the figures hit double digits on Dec. 29, 2020.

“People are clamoring for a new normal and yet we need enforcers for them to comply with the said health protocols. Clearly, we are not yet ready for the new normal,” Garganera said.

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The latest spike in COVID-19 cases, he said, might be a reason to worry but it was not yet alarming. “It is [only] alarming if our health-care system is overwhelmed and cases are not being attended to,” he said.

Quarantine

The DOH in Central Visayas recently extended the contracts of two quarantine centers in Cebu City after these expired on Dec. 31, 2020.

The contract of Bayanihan Cebu Sacred Heart School (SHS) Field Center was extended until Jan. 31, while International Eucharistic Congress Field Center will continue to accommodate asymptomatic and patients with mild symptoms of COVID-19 until March 30.

SHS Field Center had suspended operations since Oct. 1, 2020, for lack of patients.

Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, DOH spokesperson in the region, said Central Visayas’ health-care capacity would be able to handle a spike in COVID-19 cases. The majority of the new cases, she said, did not need hospital admission since they were either asymptomatic or showing mild symptoms.

Canceled events

Last week, the city government canceled the Sinulog Festival, one of the largest and grandest festivals in the country, for the first time in its 41-year history to slow down the spread of the virus.

Outdoor Masses in celebration of the Feast of the Holy Child Jesus at Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño here were also canceled as a precaution against COVID-19.

In a statement released on Monday, Fr. Pacifico Nohara Jr., OSA, prior and rector of the centuries-old basilica, encouraged devotees to continue celebrating the remaining novena Masses and the feast of the Santo Niño through the basilica’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Both the Sinulog and Fiesta Señor celebrations usually gather millions of people every year.

Mayor Labella, in an earlier interview, urged the people to comply with the health protocols, such as wearing face masks and shields, and observing physical distancing to prevent the spread of the virus.

“The public should remember that there is a new coronavirus variant that is reportedly 70 percent more transmissible. The virus is still very much alive. That is why I urge everyone to follow the health protocols to avoid the spread of the virus. Let us not be complacent,” he said. — WITH A REPORT FROM ADOR VINCENT MAYOL

For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

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TAGS: Cebu City, coronavirus Philippines, COVID-19, COVID-19 surge, holiday COVID-19 surge
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