Cebu’s COVID-19 best practices could be shared with other cities in Visayas

CEBU CITY – The Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (OPAV) plans to collate and share all the best coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response measures and practices adopted by the cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapulapu to the other cities in the Visayas region, specifically in Bacolod and Iloilo, to help them manage the rising number of COVID-19 cases in there areas.

According to OPAV Assistant Secretary Jonji Gonzales that OPAV wants to collate all these best measures and put them into a manual or playbook which will be available other local government units (LGUs) in the Visayas to use it as a guide in coming up with their own mitigating measures against COVID-19.

In a virtual discussion hosted by OPAV, and aired live on its Facebook page, officials from Cebu’s major cities shared what they have done to bring down the number of COVID-19 cases in their respective localities and communities.

Cebu City’s Chief of Staff Atty. Mary Rose Lubino attributed the city’s progress in containing the virus to the creation of cluster clinics, barangay isolation centers, and quarantine facilities; augmentation of contact tracing teams; and widespread testing.

“Our biggest game-changer is our ramped-up contact tracing teams, now at 130 teams to trace all possible first-level contacts.   Although we are seeing a downtrend and our cases are now manageable, we should never be complacent,” Lubino said. 

She added that now was the time to be vigilant with the increasing mobility of the people in Cebu city, which is now gradually reopening its economy.

“The Cebu City government is now doing data management to document everything it has done to address the pandemic,” Lubino said.

In Mandaue City, the head of the Mandaue’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Atty. August Lizer Malate bared that the establishment of an EOC has helped the city to focus its efforts to address all COVID-related concerns.

Mandaue EOC is composed of different teams with different functions, such as those for contact tracing, testing and diagnostics, patient management, logistics and management of the deceased, and data management.

Mandaue learned the idea of adding the data management team to the EOC from retired general Melquiades Feliciano, the IATF deputy implementor for the Visayas.   “These are our dedicated teams who are implementing the national directives to address the pandemic: isolate, test and treat,” Malate added. 

He also said that the data management team has centralized the city’s data system and is made up of the surveillance and validation units.  The latter is responsible for verifying the data before releasing it.

Augmenting data transparency has also helped in making Mandaue city residents more informed with the help of massive information dissemination. 

In the case of Lapu-Lapu City, Administrator Atty. Danilo Almendras said a widespread information drive has become the key factor in the city’s COVID-19 response.  The city government has also implemented various legislations to impose the strict implementation of quarantine protocols, particularly the mandatory wearing of masks.

“We continued our information dissemination by tapping our tricycle drivers and giving them, honorarium and we’ve also done forums in various barangays regarding the risks of COVID-19.  We also implemented some novel ideas like having a roaming casket to remind people of the risks of contracting the virus,” Almendras said.

Gonzales, who also serves as OPAV’s special concerns officer for Western Visayas, said that these practices will be relayed to other LGUs in the Visayas, particularly Bacolod and Iloilo where COVID-19 cases were on an uptrend following the repatriation of locally stranded individuals (LSIs) and returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs).

Based on August 13 data from the Department of Health (DOH) in Western Visayas, Region 6 currently has a total of 1,320 active cases the majority of which are LSIs, ROFs, and authorized persons outside their residences.  However, health authorities have also observed an increase in local transmission.

OPAV is also eyeing to share the guidelines of the Project Balik Buhay (PBB), a private-public collaborated economic recovery roadmap it has initiated, to the other areas in the Visayas that are now reopening their economies, Gonzales said.

He added that Cebu’s major tri-cities have adopted the guidelines set by the PBB particularly on conducting random testing in the workplaces as they restart economic activities to ensure the safety of workers and allow the businesses to reopen in a safer and healthier environment.