Cebu City may be next virus 'hotspot,' says task force adviser

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 22 2020 09:33 AM | Updated as of Jun 22 2020 09:40 AM

The usually busy Mango Avenue in Cebu City is empty during the COVID-19 lockdown on June 16, 2020. Cheryl Baldicantos, ABS-CBN News

MANILA -- Cebu City could be the next "hotspot" for the COVID-19 pandemic while rising cases in neighboring Eastern Visayas is "alarming," an adviser to the government's pandemic response task force said Monday.

Cebu City in Central Visayas was recently reverted to enhanced community quarantine following an increase in COVID-19 cases. Infections in Eastern Visayas are rising due to returning citizens from Central Visayas, Metro Manila and abroad, said Ted Herbosa, who also serves as the executive vice president of the University of the Philippines.

"The city of Cebu might be our next hotspot. As you know cases in Manila is going down and cases in Cebu is going up and Region 8 is also alarming because they suddenly have many cases, which are mostly from Balik-Probinsiya (Program) and OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) returning," he told ANC.

Returning residents can be allowed to go back to their home provinces as long as they are tested prior traveling, he added.

Cases in Cebu City rose as local governments sent home patients with mild symptoms instead of putting them in quarantine facilities as these were still under construction at the time, according to Herbosa.

"There was confusion in the beginning. Mild cases were sent home but as we all know when the situation at home is not ideal for a home quarantine, what happens if you just increase the transmission in a household," he said.

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Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella earlier attributed the increase to a higher capacity for testing.

"True enough when you do more testing, you get to see more confirmed cases. Once you see them confirmed, you must isolate them so the transmission will decrease," Herbosa said.

Despite the rise in cases in the Visayas, the country's fatality rate of some 4.6 percent is lower than the global average of 5.1 percent, Herbosa said.

"For people watching the trend, we’re seeing the decrease, we’re in the deceleration phase of our epidemic curve, we just hope there’s no second wave that can overwhelm the health system," he said.

"Our treatment has markedly improved. At the beginning, we had an alarmingly high case fatality rate. That means our health system is able to cope."

Herbosa also said contact tracers must be placed in areas with the highest number of virus cases and must conduct "meticulous contact tracing," citing Vietnam where he said they traced up to the second degree of people patients mingled with.