MANILA - The OCTA Research group on Saturday expressed concern over rising cases of COVID-19 in Cebu, saying reopening tourism in the province may not be advisable, especially as presence of the more transmissible UK variant has been confirmed in the area.
“Concerning 'yun kasi kung kumakalat doon ang UK variant medyo problematic 'yan. Di pa natin alam for sure kung kumakalat talaga kasi konti pa lang 'yung na-sequence natin sa Cebu area,” Dr. Guido David said.
(It’s concerning if the UK variant is spreading in the area, and that’s going to be problematic. We can’t say for sure that its really spreading because not many samples underwent sequencing.)
Guido, in an interview on ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo, said other indicators on COVID-19 incidence across Cebu are also too high.
Cebu City, he said, has an average of 165 cases per day. It is almost at the same level last year when the city was under enhanced community quarantine, he said. The only difference is that hospital occupancy is not yet full at 46 percent.
“'Yung number 1 LGU base sa report namin ang pinakamaraming cases per day is Cebu City. Number 2 'yung Quezon City. Sa Quezon City mga 81 cases per day siya. 'Yung Cebu City nasa 165, double na siya. 'Yung epicenter nandoon talaga sa Cebu area,” he said.
The entire province is currently under modified general community quarantine, the lowest restriction level where there is greater freedom of movement and business operations.
“Nagkaroon nga kami ng projection na kung patuloy pang tumataas 'yung cases, baka abutan na rin nila 'yung 70 percent critical care in a few weeks,” he said.
(We've projected that if cases continue to increase they may reach the 70 percent critical care in a few weeks.)
Aside from Cebu City, the cities of Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu and Talisay also show an increase in COVID-19 cases, which may be due to the presence of the UK variant.
“'Yung timing niya medyo nakakapagtaka at ngayon hindi pa tayo nakapag-sequence ng maraming cases sa Cebu pero may na sequence na tayo at ang nakita natin, may nakita na tayong case ng UK variant sa area ng Cebu," he said, referring the genome sequencing, the process that detects virus variants.
(We wonder about the timing and we detected the UK variant in Cebu area based on the cases that underwent sequencing.)
Guido warned that the UK variant spreads faster, adding .5 to the reproduction number on average, or the number of people who may contract the virus from one infected person.
He said it would be better if tourists visit Cebu when there is already a downtrend in cases.
“Hindi naman tayo nananakot, may economic consideration sila pero 'yung timing. Normally, gusto natin na pupunta 'yung mga tao doon pababa sana 'yung trend ng cases. 'Yung indicators nila tumataas pa rin saka siyempre kung pupunta ka sa lugar sa Cebu na hindi masyadong mataas 'yung cases, dadaan ka naman sa airport,” he said.
(We don’t mean to cause fear, they also have economic consideration. Normally, we want them to go there when there’s a downtrend in cases. Their indicators are still high and even if they go to an area with less cases, they would still have to go through the airport.)
He added that tourists must also be aware of the risks.
RELAXING RESTRICTIONS SHOULD BE GRADUAL
The group also expressed the same concern for Metro Manila after, government further relaxed restrictions by allowing more businesses to open in general community quarantine areas.
Allowed to operate subject to final guidelines to be issued by the health department and local governments are:
- Driving schools
- Traditional cinemas
- Video and interactive game arcades
- Libraries, archives, museums, cultural centers
- Meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions
- Limited social events at accredited establishments of the Department of Tourism
- Limited tourist attractions, such as parks, theme parks, natural sites and historical landmarks
“Sinasabihan nga natin 'yung mga tao na 'wag silang magpunta sa mga enclosed areas. Tapos possible superspreader event 'yung maraming tao manood doon [sa sinehan], tapos 2 hours kang nandoon, tapos kumakain 'yung iba ng popcorn— kung may taong infected doon malamang makukuha mo rin after 2 hours 'yung virus," he said.
(We tell people not to go to enclosed areas. It's possible that it's going to be a superspreader event when people watch a movie and stay in the cinema for 2 hours and eat popcorn. If someone there is infected it's possible that you get it too.)
The coronavirus task force is also easing a curb on religious services in areas under GCQ, which includes Metro Manila.
“Ang gusto natin sana gradual 'yung pagluwag natin ng restrictions. Ito kung mago-open tayo ng maraming industries na sabay-sabay, 'pag nagkaroon ng surge ‘di natin alam kung saan manggagaling,” he said.
(We wanted a gradual easing of restrictions. If we open more industries at the same time and there’s a surge, we won’t know where it’s coming from.)