DOH closely monitoring COVID-19 clusters in Cebu, Zamboanga jails

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 08 2020 03:08 PM | Updated as of May 08 2020 10:12 PM

MANILA — The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday said it continues to closely monitor COVID-19 clusters in Cebu and Zamboanga as more cases are found in jails.

This after Region 7, which includes Cebu, logged majority of new COVID-19 cases on Thursday.

Of the 339 new COVID-19 cases in the Philippines on Thursday, 205 or 61 percent came from Region 7. This is the highest number of new cases reported in a single day from the region.

“Gusto ko lang ipaliwanag 'yung big chunk ng kaso sa Cebu will be coming from closed institution. Ito 'yung jails nila na nagkakaroon ng clusters of cases,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told reporters on Friday morning.

(I want to explain that the big chunk of cases in Cebu came from closed institutions. These are jails that have clusters of cases.)

She said there are now 124 COVID-19 cases in different jails in Cebu, according to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.

The health official said they are also monitoring cases in the Zamboanga City Jail.

“Mayroon nang apektado na personnel ng BJMP at mga PDLs (persons deprived of liberty) mismo,” Vergeire said.

(There are now affected personnel of BJMP and PDLs.)

She said they are mostly asymptomatic.

Last month, reports came out that the number of COVID-19 patients in jails have increased substantially, prompting the government to closely monitor facilities with closed settings, which also includes homes for the elderly and orphanages.

Despite the increase in COVID-19 cases in Cebu and Zamboanga, Vergeire said there are still more active cases in the National Capital Region.

She said that while the bulk of the more than 1,000 cases in Cebu are from community transmission, this is the cumulative number.

“Mainly ang pagtaas bigla ng kaso ng Cebu were because of these different jails in Cebu,” Vergeire said, adding that the 124 cases from jails were recorded in just a week or so.

(Mainly the increase in the cases in Cebu was because of these different jails in Cebu.)

Besides the 124 cases in Cebu City, there are also more than 50 COVID-19 cases in the neighboring city of Mandaue.

According to the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group (IRG), new cases recorded in Cebu City "averaged 62 cases per day in the past week (May 1 to 7)," which is "64 percent higher than the average of 38 new cases per day in the city announced last week (April 24-30).”

The 1,391 COVID-19 cases in Central Visayas account for 13 percent of all cases nationwide, ranking only second next to the National Capital Region, according to the ABS-CBN IRG. Within the region, Cebu province accounts for 84 percent of all cases. And within the province, Cebu City has 87 percent of the cases, Mandaue City has 7 percent and Lapu-Lapu City has 4 percent.

Vergeire explained that the increase in cases in Cebu is also because of the higher testing capacity in the region.

While the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center started with a capacity of 90 tests per day, Vergeire said the hospital's laboratory can now run 550 to 600 tests per day. However, she said it is still not the laboratory’s full potential. The laboratory is also running tests from Region 8, which still does not have a licensed COVID-19 laboratory.

For Cebu, the rate of positive tests against the total number of tests is at 15 to 16 percent, she said. This is more than twice the 7 percent nationwide positivity rate and higher than the World Health Organization’s benchmark of 10 percent.