Cebu City eyes building mortuaries, crematoriums as virus deaths rise
CEBU CITY, Cebu, Philippines — The Cebu City government is considering building its own mortuaries and crematoriums amid the rising number of COVID-19 deaths that have overwhelmed funeral homes here.
Acting Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama said he had tasked Councilor James Cuenco to find out if the city could implement the project at the soonest time possible after he received a report that all private crematoriums in the city were fully booked and could no longer accept new bodies at least for the next two weeks.
Cebu City Councilor Joel Garganera, the deputy chief implementer of the city’s Emergency Operations Center, revealed that the number of COVID-19-related deaths in the city was five times more than those recorded in June.
He said only 14 COVID-19 deaths were recorded in June but it went up to 86 in July. At least 27 deaths were recorded in the first five days of August. Of the 27, Garganera said 15 died while being confined in the hospital, five upon arrival at the hospital, and seven others in their homes.
The surge in infections in Cebu brought the number of active cases to 10,834, from the three-digit level in the past months.
As of Saturday, Cebu City had 3,586 active cases while Cebu province had 4,245. The highly urbanized cities of Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu had 1,419 and 1,584 cases, respectively. Cebu province is under general community quarantine with heightened restrictions while the rest of the island is under the stricter modified enhanced community quarantine until Aug. 15.
Aside from the overwhelmed crematoriums, some hospitals in Cebu City have also been considered at “high risk” because their COVID-19 bed occupancy rates have reached between 70 percent to 85 percent, according to the Department of Health (DOH).
At the Cebu City-based Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, the biggest government hospital in Central Visayas, 92 percent of its 174 COVID-19 beds were occupied, leaving only 14 beds vacant as of Sunday.
The three major private hospitals in the city have COVID-19 occupancy rates from 48 to 68.4 percent, the DOH said.
Local officials said all hospitals in Cebu City would increase their COVID-19 beds. Cebu City Sports Complex was also converted into an isolation facility for COVID-19 patients.