MANILA — Data from the Department of Health showed that a third of COVID-19 cases in Cebu City announced in the last 2 weeks came from just 10 barangays (villages).
The table shared by the DOH to media showed that 59 cases were recorded from June 5 to 18 in Lahug, 42 cases in Pardo, another 42 in Sambag II, 39 in Labangon, 31 in Bulacao and 30 in Basak San Nicolas.
The DOH also logged 29 cases each in Sambag I and Tinago, and 28 cases each in Carreta and Inayawan.
The total is 357 additional cases in the last 2 weeks.
According to the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group, this is 35% of the new reported cases in Cebu City for the said period. There are about 80 barangays in the city.
Based on Google Maps, these villages are all near the main highway. Data from the Philippine Statistic Authority also show that 8 out of 10 are highly populated barangays with about 10,000 to more than 30,000 residents as of 2000.
Since the start of June, Region 7 has often been logging almost 100 to more than 200 cases daily, sometimes surpassing the new cases of the National Capital Region, which has been known as the epicenter of the outbreak in the Philippines.
On Thursday, the “fresh cases” from Region 7 reached 273, prompting the DOH to remind the public why Cebu City is under the stricter enhanced community quarantine
Back in May, an expert said that while the NCR is still the epicenter of the outbreak, Cebu City has become a hotspot. This was after several small clusters of COVID-19 cases were found in a few barangays and jails in the city.
60% OF TOTAL CASES
Of the 10 barangays with the largest number of new cases recently, 3 are included in the list of barangays with the most number of COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic.
Topping the list if Mambaling with 524 cases since the start of outbreak, followed by Kalunasan with 414 cases.
Mambaling was identified as a cluster back in May, while Kalunasan is the location of the Cebu City Jail where another cluster was monitored in April.
Third on the list is Barangay Luz with 224 total cases. This is the location of Sitio Zapatera, which logged a high number of cases in April.
Below is the table from the DOH.
With a total of 1,909 cases, these 10 barangays are home to almost 60% of Cebu City’s total confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said there are a number of “assumptions” on why the number of COVID-19 cases spiked in Cebu City again.
“Unang-una yung sinasabi nila yung pagpasok ng returning overseas Filipinos and OFWs, yung pagtaas ng kaso sa mga jail, and of course yung pangatlo yung expanded testing,” she told media during a briefing on Friday morning.
(First is what they said is the arrival of the returning overseas Filipinos and OFWs. And then the increase of cases in jails and of course expanded testing.)
Recently, some provinces have complained of an increase in COVID-19 cases the national government allowed repatriates and Metro Manila workers to return to their home provinces.
Among these are Leyte and Lanao del Sur.
The Cebu City government has also asked the national government to ease its lockdown since it attributes the increase in cases to their 3 months of massive testing.
Vergeire has lauded Cebu City for its pro-active testing and contact tracing.
But DOH data also showed a lower case doubling time for Cebu City at 6.93 days. In comparison, the Philippines has a case doubling time of 7.06 days.
This means that the spread of the virus in the city is slightly faster than the national rate.
Cebu City’s reproduction number (R0), which shows the transmission potential of a disease, is also higher than the Philippines as a whole.
DOH data showed that Cebu City’s R0 was at 1.45, as of June 17, which is higher than the Philippines’ 1.2 based on a University of the Philippines study.
If R0 is higher than 1, the disease is still spreading and if it is lower than 1, the rate of the epidemic curve is flattening. Cebu City’s higher R0 number means that the virus is spreading there at a slightly higher rate.
The positivity rate for Region 7 at 18.2% is also higher than the National Capital Region’s 7.1%, according to the DOH.
The positivity rate pertains to ratio of people testing positive from the total number of people tested.
The DOH previously said that a lower positivity rate is better, because it shows increased testing capacity. At the onset of the pandemic, the Philippines had a high positivity rate because it was only able to test people who had symptoms. Increased or enhanced testing should result in a lower positivity rate since even those who do not show symptoms are included in the testing protocol.
Also worrying is the critical care utilization rate of the city. Based on DOH data analyzed by the ABS-CBN Data Analytics Team, 47% of intensive care unit (ICU) beds in Region 7 hospitals are occupied. But in Cebu City, 34 of the 57 ICU beds (60%) are occupied. This is higher than the national average of around 35%.
Vergeire also revealed that there are now a total of 233 clusters in the country, with 9 additional ones appearing only recently.
She did not specify how many are in Cebu.
“Ngayon nakakakita na tayo ng clusters among the communities in Cebu. Kaya nakikita natin yung pagtaas ng kaso,” she said.
(Now we are seeing clusters among communities in Cebu. That is why we are seeing an increase in cases.)
“Maaaring meron pa ring factors, katulad ng alam naman nating if merong overcrowding. Yung mga lugar na masisikip, mas madali nating nakikita yung transmission ng mga sakit,” she said.
(There are also other factors such as overcrowding. In communities that have tight spaces, we can see the quick transmission of infections.)
As mentioned above, many of the barangays that logged high cases recently are densely populated.
Asked when the DOH could shed light on the situation in Cebu City, Vergeire said officials are already waiting for the findings of their epidemiologists.
She said the DOH already sent epidemiologists to Cebu City last Tuesday.