MANILA - Visayas urban hub Cebu City is the new epicenter of COVID-19 in the Philippines, the vice-chairperson of the national task force against the pandemic said Monday.
The city tallied 131 new cases as of Sunday compared with Metro Manila's 356 new cases from 17 local government units, according to Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año.
"Somehow we’re able to contain in the whole country but of course in the National Capital Region and Cebu we have to do more. Particularly Cebu, it’s the epicenter now compared to Metro Manila in area and population," he told ANC.
"Yes, more likely because of the rate of infection in Cebu City. Just 1 city if you compared with Metro Manila where we have 17 LGUs... We’re referring to Cebu City. Cebu City is getting a lot of new cases and we’re worried on the number of deaths also," he added when asked if the city was the new virus epicenter in the country.
Government officials will be going to the city to look for more sites for isolation facilities as most of the infections in the community were due to positive patients staying at home, Año said.
"We can’t be sure if those patients are observing proper protocols of home quarantine. So better to extract them out of the community to ensure safety of the families and neighborhood," he said.
The number of virus cases in the city rose due to the public's "complacency, eagerness to resume economic activities immediately" and the return of Filipino migrant workers and residents stranded from other areas, according to Año.
"We’d also like to enjoin and ask the people to observe the health standards protocols. There are so many people violating the quarantine protocols, not wearing masks, not observing physical distancing. In fact there was even a fiesta celebration the other day in Barangay Basak, San Nicolas," he said.
The local and interior department will file cases against the organizers for violating quarantine protocols and the barangay chairman and its police community precinct will be asked to explain, he added.
The health department on Sunday sent 32 medical workers to augment the city's healthcare capacity, Año said. More will be sent while the military and the police will continue to "implement the strict observance of lockdown," he added.
Drones have also been deployed to watch over the city, Año said.
"We are asking the public, the Cebu constituents to please do your part, observe health standards strictly. And likewise for those who might have been exposed to positive COVID patients, please volunteer and go to the isolation facilities or have yourself tested," he said.
Authorities are considering to make the Talisay District Hospital a designated COVID-19 center, he added.
The Philippines as of Sunday recorded 35,455 cases of COVID-19, with 1,244 deaths and 9,686 recoveries.