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Gov: No to another lockdown
By: Vanessa L. Almeda | Published Friday, February 19, 2021
During a meeting with DOH-7 officials, Visayas IATF Covid-19 chief implementer Mel Feliciano and OPAV Asst. Sec. Jonji Gonzalez, Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia shot down recommendations from Manila to place Cebu again in a lockdown following reports of a "Cebu variant" of Covid-19. (Junjie Mendoza)

Governor Gwendolyn Garcia has shot down recommendations from several medical consultants of the Department of Health (DOH) to place Cebu again in a lockdown following reports of a “Cebu variant.”

She also found it “strange” that the recommendation came at the heels of her declaration last week to open tourism to the rest of the country including Metro Manila.

“Don’t mess with us. We can take care of ourselves. I will not and never again accept a lockdown. I’ll fight for Cebu and the Cebuanos because Cebu is moving on and moving forward,” Garcia said in a press conference Friday, Feb. 19.

In her meeting prior to the press conference, the governor said the same consultants also recommended for travel restrictions against Cebuanos – meaning anyone from the island can no longer leave or travel outside of Cebu. 

Garcia met on Friday with DOH Central Visayas Director Dr. Jaime Bernadas, DOH 7 Chief Pathologist Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, National Task Force Against Covid-19 Chief Implementer retired general Feliciano Melquiades, Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Jonjie Gonzales, and members of the Inter-Agency Task Force in the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) to tackle on the supposed “Cebu variant.” 

In the meeting, Loreche explained that what the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) found in the samples taken from patients earlier suspected to have the UK variant were mutations of the Sars Cov-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. 

“Dunay mutations nga nagpakita og interesting characters worth further investigation,” the governor said.

“As far as if I am to believe RD Bernadas and Dr. Jean Loreche, wala pa'y Cebu variant. There were mutations. And mutations happen all the time, magsige gyud na. Kinahanglan mo-mutate siya aron makapadayon pag-survive,” Garcia said. 

She explained that mutations are normal as the virus’ genetic code changes when it enters its host. Mutations can either die or survive depending on the host immunity or susceptibility.

“Akong tubag ana, lakip na ang Manila media nga pa-esplikahon na sad ko nganong nay Cebu variant, ang akong tubag: what variant? Di ta magdali-dali especially media bah, let’s be careful,” the governor stated.

“Kahibaw na ta, we’ve already achieved this fear pandemic. Gikapoy na ang mga tawo. Pwede ba ato sa na klarohon bitaw kung unsa gyud na,” she said in response to media reports. 

Consultants’ recommendation

Garcia said in Thursday night’s meeting, three of these medical consultants whom she declined to name, recommended for stricter quarantine measure or reverting to the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) status for Cebu, or if not, bar Cebuanos from travelling outside or visiting Manila or other areas. 

Garcia wondered why these recommendations were raised at a time when Cebu is opening up tourism to the rest of the country.

”It is really strange though nga nikalit man lang ni nigawas and these consultants suggesting nga i- lockdown ta after I made the pronouncement that Cebu Province will now open its doors to domestic tourism including those coming from Metro Manila,” she said.

She chided the doctors for raising these recommendations without actually seeing the real conditions in the province and even Cebu City, for that matter. 

“Ay mo'g pataka dinha pang-rekomendar og lockdown, sayunan lang mo, no? Wa man gani mo mangrekomendar og lockdown sa mga Metro Manila cities nga tag-as pud kaayo ang mga positive cases,” she said.

The governor added it is easy for these medical consultants to seek for a lockdown when they don’t have to worry about their income and livelihood.

“Sayonan lang mo. You are ensconced safely in your airconditioned offices. Regular inyong consultancy fees gawas pa sa inyong kita as doctors. Inig lockdown mag-unsa man tong mawad-an na sad og trabaho. Mag-unsa man ‘tong mawad-an nasad kinabuhi. Mag-unsa man ‘tong tag iya aning establishments nga naa pay bayranan sa bangko,” Garcia asked.

“Nag ECQ bitaw ta, unya? Na-zero Covid ta? Lockdowns don't work. Well, it works against the economy. Ang ekonomiya maoy maguba, apan ang labing nag-antos ang mga kabus,” she pointed out.

Garcia also decried the recommendation that Cebuanos will not be allowed to travel outside.

“Kita ra gyud? Gi-discriminate na ta wa pa gani klaro og unsa ba gyud ni nga mutation,” she said.

“Unsa man gyuy inyo pagtan-aw sa mga Sugbuanon? Kahibulongan naman nang inyong kalake, wa man gani mo kaila. Porke naa mo dinha sa malaking lupa daug-daugon mi ninyo. Excuse me, we’re taking care of ourselves, thank you. Kamao mi. We’re managing thank you,” the governor expressed.

It is a good thing though that DOH Sec. Francisco Duque overruled the recommendations after Dr. Bernadas and Dr. Loreche strongly objected to the proposal.

“In fairness to Secretary Duque, iyang gi-override ang recommendations aning tulo and agreed because RD Bernadas and Dr. Loreche were both fighting for Cebu and they were really opposing passionately the suggestion of subjecting Cebu to another lockdown,” Garcia shared.

“Ayaw intawon mi suwayi dire. Tingale unya kinahanglan namo'g ipakita ang among dugong Lapulapu. Ika-quincentennial ra ba ron,” the governor quipped. (Vanessa L. Almeda)