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Philippines

Duterte places Cebu under total Covid lockdown

Philippine president blames loosening of virus protocols on the island for a recent spike in cases

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Duterte places Cebu under total Covid lockdown

A resident rides a bicycle on an empty road in Cebu City after the government announced a total lockdown following a spike in the number of coronavirus cases there. (Photo: Alex Badayos/AFP)

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A total lockdown has been declared in Cebu in the central Philippines, with health authorities saying the island is at risk of becoming the country's new Covid-19 epicenter following a spike in cases there.

Cebu is where Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan landed, introducing Catholicism to the country before being killed by chieftain Lapu-Lapu in 1521. It is also known for its Sinulog Festival or the feast of the child Jesus.

President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire island under strict quarantine protocols on June 30 after 6,000 coronavirus cases were recorded there.

Duterte expressed dismay at Cebu’s leaders for previously loosening quarantine protocols that has led to total lockdowns of nearly 12 barangays (local communities).

Health chief Maria Rosario Vergeire supported Duterte’s move. “We will analyze again the numbers after maybe two weeks. But for now, Cebu [City] is a hotspot that needs a total lockdown,” she told a press conference.

Vergeire also said that based on their predictions Cebu would “more likely” replace Manila as the new epicenter of the coronavirus in the Philippines.

“Cebu could be the new epicenter because of the mass migration of asymptomatic people from Metro Manila going back to the province due to job retrenchment,” she added.

Some residents on the island, however, disagree with Duterte and Vergeire blaming the spike on less stringent quarantine protocols.

“This is not only a matter of lockdowns but of mass testing. We still lack mass testing, so those who come from Manila may contaminate their relatives because they are not properly tested by health authorities,” said Karen dela Rama, a resident of Lapu-Lapu City on Cebu.

Without mass testing, Cebu residents have no way of checking if their relatives from Manila are Covid positive, she said.

Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma has urged Catholics to strictly follow government quarantine protocols to prevent further spread of the virus.

Archbishop Palma said health restrictions and protocols would be effective only if people unite in strictly following them calmly.

“Let us maintain our sense of courtesy and respect the government authorities and their orders. They are doing their best for us. They are doing this for the common good,” Archbishop Palma said in a statement.

The prelate also reminded churchgoers to refrain from hurting one another any further with selfishness or through a lack of generosity, especially to the poor.

“The worst of times is indeed the best of times to show to the rest of the country our sense of personal discipline and our willingness to show our deeply embedded Cebuano spirit of solidarity and tenacity,” he added.

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