Cebu City holds religious festival despite ban due to ECQ imposition vs. COVID-19

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CEBU CITY — A public religious festival was held on Saturday in a community that is part of one of 12 barangays in this city classified as COVID-19 hotspots, despite a nationwide ban, prompting authorities to deploy more policemen in the area for the implementation of strict quarantine measures.

According to an official statement Sunday of Barangay Basak San Nicolas, the Sinulog dance presentation in its Sitio Alumnos to celebrate the community’s fiesta was held, claiming that it was without the knowledge of Barangay Captain Norman Navarro.

Photos of the event, posted above this article, showing people lining up for a procession of the Senyor Sto. Nino, surfaced Saturday evening.

“Supak siya (Navarro) aning aktibidad. Kahibaw ta na kini alang sa Senyor Sto. Nino apan kita naglikay hilabi na nagkasaka ang kaso nato niining COVID  (He is not in favor of this activity. We know this is for Sr. Sto. Nino, but we have to take caution especially that the number of our COVID-19 cases is growing.),” said a statement of the barangay posted on its official Facebook account.

Cebu City is under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) due to the spike of coronavirus infections over the past few weeks, with Barangay Basak San Nicolas and 11 other barangays identified as hotspots for the outbreak.

Cebu City Councilor Edu Rama said the “unauthorized” Sinulog performance is in clear violation of ECQ protocols.

“This is completely unacceptable and puts everyone at risk,” Rama said on Facebook.

The barangay said all festivals and mass gatherings in the city, including going to church for Holy Mass, are canceled under ECQ protocols.

It said the organizers of Saturday’s activity will be summoned as police said it will deploy more personnel, including those from the Special Action Force who arrived in the city to help enforce quarantine measures.

“Those people in those area should realize that if we are not on ECQ, we don’t forbid religious activity. But we are on ECQ. They should realize that,” said Col. Randy Peralta, Deputy Regional Director for Administration of the Police Regional Office 7.

In a calibrated lockdown, police forces will be stationed in every area of the sitio, including its entrances and exit, to make sure nobody goes out.

“We should make sure it will not happen again,” Peralta said.

Police will also send investigators to the area to probe what happened and who should be held accountable. Police said cases may be filed.

“Kinahanglang mapasakaan og kaso ang tanan nag-organize ining dance performance sa nakapatapok sa mga lumolopyo (We need to press charges against those who organized this dance performance that caused residents to gather.),” Rama said.

The barangay reminded residents they can always pray at home as it seeks their understanding and cooperation in this time of a pandemic.

“Kahibaw ta mahuman ra gyud ta niining pagsuway (We know we will overcome these challenges.),” it said, telling residents they are part of the solution.

As of Friday, June 26, Sitio Alumnos has recorded six confirmed COVID-19 cases, of which, five are active as one patient succumbed to the disease. The entire barangay has 99 active cases, as 20 patients have recovered and 11 others died.

Cebu City, as of 5 p.m. of June 27, has logged 5,598 confirmed coronavirus infections, of which, 3,116 are active, based on the latest tally of the regional health office.

President Rodrigo Duterte has tasked Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, a former military chief, to oversee the government’s pandemic response in Cebu City./Stacy Ang

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