Nalzaro: A bitter pill to swallow

IF there will be no immediate changes by Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021, up to Aug. 15, the cities of Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu cities will be placed under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ), the second highest quarantine status under the guidelines of the Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).

This was the recommendation of the IATF that Malacañang approved because of rising number of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases. While Cebu City and Cebu Province remain under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), a more relaxed quarantine status. But as of this writing, Malacañang also placed Cebu City and Cebu Province under MECQ. The entire island of Cebu will be under MECQ in the next two weeks. But it said local government units (LGUs) can still appeal this.

For those who are asking why the cities of Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu were placed under MECQ first, this is the answer: Based on Department of Health (DOH) 7 data, there are 32 cases of the highly transmissible and contagious delta variant in Central Visayas. A total of 19 were detected in Lapu-Lapu City. Cebu City has six cases; Mandaue City, three; Cordova, two; and Samboan, two.

Samboan was placed under hard lockdown last week. However, Gov. Gwen Garcia ordered its lifting. She advised other mayors not to order their own lockdown without the concurrence of the Regional IATF. Maybe Mandaue was included in the recommendation because it’s the nearest city to Lapu-Lapu and perhaps because of the city’s hospitalization and health care utilization rate, which is already in critical rate.

DOH 7 Director Jaime Bernadas said those who were infected are presumed to have recovered by now because the swab tests were conducted early July. Why did it take so long for the Philippine Genome Center to release its findings? The virus could have already infected many individuals since the first case.

Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes and Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard “Ahong” Chan protested against the classification of their quarantine status, saying this would damage again their respective LGUs’ economy. But I doubt if the IATF will reconsider its decision.

Well, with the confirmation that the delta variant is here, there is no more protest and argument needed from officials in these areas. We have to abide by the classification and guidelines because that is the only way we can contain the spread of this deadly variant in our locality. We have to act now. As in NOW!

What we need is to sacrifice a little under this quarantine status for the better of the majority. This is what experts say, “anticipatory, preventive and circuit-breaking lockdowns and go early, go hard.” This is a bitter pill to swallow.

The following are prohibited under MECQ: Entertainment venues with live performers including movie houses; recreational venues like internet cafes, billiard halls, amusement arcades, bowling alleys and similar venues; amusement parks or theme parks; outdoor sports courts or venues for contact sports, scrimmages. Personal care services such as salons, nail spa and aesthetic centers are not allowed to open. Home service for these activities is also prohibited.

Outdoor dine-in with 50 percent capacity is allowed as long as there are acrylic dividers and diners are seated diagonally, while indoor dine-in is not allowed. Restaurants can also accommodate takeout orders. Public transportation will remain limited to authorized persons outside residence.

Strict home quarantine shall be observed. Travel should be limited to accessing essential goods and services for work in permitted establishments. Those below 18 years old, over 65 years old, those with co-morbidities and pregnant women should stay at home, except for work and obtaining essential services. The local government unit (LGU) may relax the minimum age range to below 15 years old depending on the Covid-19 situation in their respective jurisdiction.

Mass gathering is prohibited. Religious gatherings will be allowed up to 10 percent of the venue capacity, but LGUs are allowed to increase it to up to 30 percent. Gathering for necrological services, wakes, inurnments and funerals for non-Covid 19 deaths are allowed but limited to immediate family members. Visits to memorial parks, cemeteries and columbaria shall be limited to not more than 10 people per group and not exceeding 30 percent of the venue capacity.

Individual outdoor exercises while wearing face masks are allowed within the barangay or village. Road, rail, maritime and aviation sectors of public transportation may operate at such capacity and protocols in accordance with guidelines issued by the transportation department.

However, some establishments are allowed to open provided at half capacity like dental, rehabilitation, optometry and other medical clinics for the treatment of illnesses and injuries; veterinary clinics; banks, pawnshops and money transfer services; water supply, janitorial services; internet service and cable providers; and media companies.