The appointment of Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu as overseer of the government’s coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) response in the city is in line with the national government’s intensified efforts to contain the spread of the deadly disease.
“We are here to find out how we can help Cebu and Region 7 (Central Visayas) and Secretary Cimatu,” National Task Force (NTF) Against Covid-19 chairman, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, said during a press conference held here on Tuesday. “We shall not lose sight of why we’re here. That’s to defeat Covid-19.”
Lorenzana underscored the importance of the visit of the NTF and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to the Queen City of the South.
Chief implementer of the country’s National Policy Against Covid-19, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., said Cimatu’s appointment is “proof that President (Rodrigo) Duterte cares deeply for Cebu and its people.”
The NTF leadership fully supports the designation of Cimatu as the task force’s overseer in the city, Galvez said, noting the environment secretary would provide a major boost to the implementation of Covid-19 prevention and mitigation measures.
Members of the NTF and IATF-EID are in Cebu to meet with local chief executives in the province, as well as visit several hospitals to evaluate health conditions in the area.
The officials brought with them three polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machines, 10,000 N95 masks, and 10,000 Sansure testing kits, which were turned over to the local government.
“Nandito kami para malaman kung ano pa ang mga pangangailangan ng mga ospital. May ipadadala pa (na equipment) si Presidente (We are here to know the needs of the hospitals. The President will send more equipment),” Galvez said.
Warming up to his new role, Cimatu said he is set to hold a dialogue with barangay officials in areas with high numbers of active cases.
According to him, Duterte’s directive was “to help the people of Cebu understand the problem.”
“We have to do something to help and alleviate the lives of the people there,” he added.
Queried by the media on whether there is a need for an expanded police presence in the city in light of the rising number of Covid cases, Cimatu said it is not necessary as of the moment.
“Kung pwede sana, hindi na kailangang umabot sa ganyan (army and police). Sana hindi naman tayo pupunta sa medyo forceful na pag-implement ng regulation (If possible, it should not come to the point of deploying the army and police. Hopefully, it would not come to the forceful implementation of regulations),” he said. “Mas marami naman ang nagko-comply kaysa hindi (More people are complying with quarantine rules than those who are not).”
Cimatu said he would stay in Cebu for as long as his presence is needed.
“As long as may problema, andito ako (So long as there is a problem here, I will stay). We will stop the bleeding, meaning stop the rise of infection. I am optimistic that this will be resolved at the soonest possible time,” he said.
Meanwhile, Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia and Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella have also thrown their support behind Cimatu’s appointment.
“I would like to thank the President for sending not one but five secretaries to Cebu,” Garcia said.
“I am a fan of Gen. Cimatu, with what he did to Boracay and Manila Bay. We are happy that he is working with us,” Labella said.
Increasing Cebu City’s health capacity
As part of the government’s strategy to flatten the Covid-19 curve in the city, NTF vice chair, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, said raising the area’s health care capacity would be a priority.
“Lalong kawawa ang Cebu kung ang mga pasyente ay hindi mabibigyan ng maayos na medical attention (It would be unfortunate for Cebu if patients are not given proper medical attention),” Año said.
This is the reason, he said, why providing high-quality personal protective equipment (PPEs) to Cebu’s medical front-liners is crucial in containing the virus.
Año said the government is enforcing the strategy of “test-detect-isolate-treat” in Cebu.
“To be able to implement this strategy, we have to control the movement of the people. We will focus on areas with large number of active cases,” he said. “We placed Cebu City under ECQ to flatten the curve and even make the curve decline.”
In support of this effort, Galvez said 46,000 PPE sets have so far been turned over to the city and distributed to the city’s health care workers.
Meanwhile, Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III shared that the IATF’s current strategy for Cebu City is based on recent consultations with the local government.
“We need to ramp up testing. (Meanwhile), DOH Region 7 has been providing medical personnel to hospitals in Cebu City,” Duque said, adding that it is incumbent upon local leaders to drill down compliance with minimum health standards to slow down the spread of the virus.
He also clarified that the current Covid-19 situation in Cebu City does not indicate a “second wave” of infections.
“It’s still part of the first wave. This is a pandemic wave. This is a continuing sustained transmission,” Duque said.
He asked the public to help the fight the crisis collectively.
“It is not an easy task. The whole world is reeling from Covid-19. This fight is truly the fight of every Filipino,” he said.
Also present during the press conference were Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Lloyd Dino, and DOH-7 Director Dr. Jaime Bernadas
Source: Philippines News Agency