MANILA, Philippines — Quarantine measures were tightened in Cebu City to avoid overwhelming its health care capacity, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.
He said 45% of the city's 60 ventilators are now being used while 100% of its 27 intensive care unit beds have been filled up. About 90% of the city's 339 isolation beds and 93% of its 133 bed wards are also being used.
Roque said the majority or 61% of Cebu City's 80 barangays have active coronavirus cases, 13 of them considered "worst hit." The city's virus transmission rate, meanwhile is 1.3%, higher than the national average of 1.07 percent.
Roque said infections in Metro Manila rose by 1,152 in the last two weeks but the region has more available health facilities to accommodate persons who will catch the virus.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said law enforcers would focus on Cebu City, the only area under strictest quarantine protocols, and nearby Talisay City.
Cebu City's status, meanwhile, was upgraded to the strictest enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) from GCQ because of the "increasing number of new cases" and "widespread transmission" of COVID-19 in majority of its barangays, according to Resolution No. 46-A issued by the government's pandemic task force.
The resolution also cited the "significant increase in critical care utilization against critical care capacity" in the city, which means that its health care facilities are fast being filled up because of an increasing number of patients.
Talisay City, a component city under the province of Cebu, was placed under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ), the scenario between ECQ and GCQ, for the same reasons.
"We will give attention to Cebu City and Talisay because of the spike (in the number of infections). We are thinking of deploying additional police personnel in Cebu to ensure that the ECQ would be enforced," Año said during the meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases late Monday.
'More agressive enforcement'
While the IATF agreed not to tighten quarantine measures in Metro Manila, officials would be more aggressive in enforcing localized lockdowns.
"The implementation of barangay lockdowns will be more aggressive because even if we have limited the increase in the number of deaths, we still have many positive cases and new cases in the National Capital Region," Año said.
Roque said the easing of quarantine measures in Metro Manila would depend on the cooperation of its residents.
"Will we ever graduate to MGCQ? We hope so and that's what we're striving for. Metro Manila is borderline (in terms of risk). Seven means that the risk is moderate. We are at 6.9," the Palace spokesman said.
"To my countrymen, we have the answers on how we can slow it (spread of the virus) down," he added.
Roque said Metro Manila, home to more than 12 million and contributor of about a third of the country's gross domestic product, has an advantage because almost all critical care resources are in the region.
Its population density, however, makes it easy for the virus to spread.
"Population density is part of the problem. We are congested and there are several areas where it is hard to observe social distancing," Roque said.
Metro Manila, which accounts for about half of the country's coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 cases, will remain under the more lenient general community quarantine (GCQ) until the end of the month.
Other areas that will be under GCQ until June 30 are Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino and Santiago City in Cagayan Valley; Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Olongapo, Tarlac in Central Luzon; Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon in CALABARZON; Occidental Mindoro in MIMAROPA, all in Luzon; Bohol, Cebu province, Negros Oriental, Siquijor, Mandaue City, and Lapu-Lapu City in the Visayas and Davao City and Zamboanga City in Mindanao.
The rest of the country has been placed under the most relaxed modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), the final scenario before the so-called "new normal," wherein an area is not under quarantine but is still required to observe health measures and physical distancing.
'Observe health protocols'
During last Monday's IATF meeting, President Rodrigo Duterte said he was heartened by the high recovery rate but reminded the public to continue complying with health standards to prevent the spread of the virus.
"The battle against COVID is not over. The germ is still there… You know I cannot say it’s second wave because it is still increasing, the infected ones, and the number of deaths is 1,000," the President said.
"Although what is very heartening is the recovery which is about 6,252. It's a good record compared to the other countries. I don't know if it has something to do with… the difference here is the weather. Maybe it's not too cold or the germ is not really…comfortable in hot places," he added.
Duterte said the easing of restrictions does not mean that the public can set aside health protocols.
"We are gradually easing restrictions to make way for our economic viability as individuals and as a nation. But it does not mean that we will forget our minimum health standards. I cannot stop everybody from going out," the President said.
"The problem is you allow children to go out when the place is not yet ready for them to be outside. If they get sick, do not blame us. Do not forget that we warned you about the grave consequences," he added.
Duterte reminded the public to wash their hands frequently and to observe safe distance.
"Let us continue to observe proper social distancing if you go out… If you are from Parañaque, avoid those who are from Quezon City. it should be that far… I'm joking. I am joking because we are all sleepy," he said, drawing laughs from IATF members.
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