The Philippine government has again placed Cebu city under a stricter coronavirus quarantine, the presidential palace said Tuesday, citing a sharp rise in new cases detected there, and has extended a general pandemic-related lockdown for Metro Manila through June 30.
Cebu, a city in the central Philippines where the rate for people testing positive for COVID-19 ranges from 33 percent to 36 percent, was reclassified under an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) following a new spike in local cases, according to health officials and the president’s office. The city had 2,810 cases as of June 14, and 61 of its 80 barangays (villages) had active cases.
“Cebu City was reverted back to ECQ because of the rapid rise of community transmission of the coronavirus disease 2019 … and the city’s data in terms of case doubling time and critical care utilization,” the Presidential Communications Operations Office said in a statement Tuesday.
“[E]veryone has to worry because Cebu is the gateway to the Visayas. If we do not contain this disease in Cebu City, it is very possible that it may spread to different parts of the Visayas and especially to Luzon,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.
In an address to the nation on Monday night, President Rodrigo Duterte announced Cebu’s reclassification under the stricter ECQ – which was based on a recommendation by an inter-agency task force – and a 15-day extension of a general COVID-19 quarantine for Manila and 16 other nearby cities that make up the Metro Manila region.
“COVID is still here,” Duterte said in his televised speech.
Under the extension of the general community quarantine (GCQ) for Metro Manila, some activities would be allowed under strict monitoring.
“We are gradually easing restrictions to make way for our economic viability as individuals, as a nation,” Duterte said. “But it does not mean that we will forget our minimum health standards.”
The president said schools would be allowed to start their year in late August, adding there would be no “face-to-face sessions” until a vaccine is found.
“Instead, we will follow a blended-learning approach. Part of this learning strategy is distance and online learning, using communications technology and digital services,” he said.
Duterte, whose face was uncovered during his speech, reminded people to follow government health protocols including social distancing and wearing face masks. He said the only way COVID-19 would be defeated or scaled back was if scientists found a vaccine.
Edgardo Labella, the mayor of Cebu, said Tuesday that he would abide by the central government’s decision on reverting his city under an enhanced quarantine, although he would appeal the move, the state-run Philippine News Agency quoted him as saying.
“Very frankly, up to this day I still believe that a GCQ is justified. The data I see do not warrant restrictions set forth by an ECQ, so to speak and with all due respect,” Labella said, adding that the local business community was anxious to reopen after being hit hard by the pandemic’s economic ripple effects.
On Tuesday, the Philippine health department reported 364 new coronavirus cases, bringing the national total to 26,781. It also reported five deaths, bringing that total to 1,103.
Globally, more than 8 million people have been infected with COVID-19 and nearly 438,000 have died as of Tuesday, according to data compiled by disease experts at U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.