Metro Manila is ready to return to the more relaxed general quarantine (GCQ) following the reduction in the number of new coronavirus diseases in 2019 (Covid-19), Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Monday.
Lorenzana, who is also chair of the National Task Force Against Covid-19 (NTF Covid-19), stressed that the government must resume business because the country could not just go on lockdown after lockdown.
President Rodrigo Duterte placed Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal under the modified ECQ or MECQ to prevent the increase in Covid-19 cases.
In recent days, the health authorities have registered from 4,000 to 6,000 new cases.
But Lorenzana said since the health department (DoH) had logged about 3,000 cases, it was time to facilitate the lockdown.
“I think the trend is going down,” he said in an interview on the ABS-CBN News Channel. “[On August 9], we recorded only 3000 new cases, down from [more than] 6,000 previously recorded so I think we are ready to go down. “
“We can not continue with MECQ because we are already familiar with and we have decided which areas have [high] infections, that’s where we will focus our attention, ”he added.
Lorenzana also referred to the increase in recovering Covid-19 patients.
Extending the hard lock again was unnecessary as the government has introduced the second phase of its national action plan against the virus.
The working group has walked around towns and cities in areas under MECQ and consulted local officials and asked them why infections have skyrocketed, Lorenzana said.
Several agencies, including Malacañang, have attributed the increase in confirmed Covid-19 cases to the gradual opening and increase in the number of test centers across the country, a claim contradicted by some experts who insist that the increase in tests should have reduced the positivity for infections.
“We should not put large areas under lock and key as a particular city or municipality, but rather we should determine and identify which places really have the outbreak, such as certain villages or streets instead of affecting the whole city or municipality,” Lorenzana said.
Extension of MECQ could lead to more people becoming unemployed, he warned.
In Laguna, he said, the working group stated that there were 2,048 companies that failed to control their employees from going to canteens and smoking rooms, which gave rise to more infections.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID) will meet on Wednesday in Davao City with Duterte to discuss whether MECQ should be extended.
Prior to the meeting, Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. indicated that it was up to the IATF-EID to extend the MECQ.
“It involves a delicate balancing act of protecting and saving human health in order to protect and save the country’s economic health,” Roque said in a statement Monday.
Anthony Leachon, former special adviser to the national working group on Covid-19, recommended on Saturday that MECQ be extended for another 14 days.
Leachon said extending the quarantine by one month will give authorities time to build up the country’s healthcare capacity.
“It will certainly flatten the curve,” he said.
The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) predicted that the number of people infected with the coronavirus will be affected by 20 million this week, including about 750,000 deaths.
In a briefing on Monday, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowledged that “behind this statistic there is a lot of pain and suffering”, but said there were still “green shoots of hope”, no matter what stage of an outbreak a country or region could be.
He offered no new strategies to fight the virus, but reiterated that “leaders need to step up to take action and citizens need to take new action”, citing New Zealand as an example to the world. The country recently marked 100 days without local spread of the virus.
Tedros said recently adopted measures in countries including the UK and France, which had introduced targeted lockdowns and masking strategies in the past week, were a good example of specific strategies needed to slow down a new rise in cases.
At the same time, the WHO emergency manager said that the coronavirus disease in 2019 did not seem to follow the seasonal patterns that some viruses show, which makes it more difficult to control.
Unlike other respiratory viruses such as influenza, which spread mainly in winter, the pandemic accelerates in summer. It is despite previous predictions from some researchers and politicians that it would disappear in the heat.
“This virus has not shown any seasonal pattern as such,” says Dr. Michael Ryan. “What it has clearly shown is that if you remove the pressure from the virus, the virus bounces back.”
Ryan added that the UN Health Bureau continued to advise countries, even where the disease appeared to be under control, such as those in Europe, to maintain measures to curb the spread of the virus.
He called on countries where the transmission remains intense, such as Brazil, to take action so that communities have the necessary support they need to implement strategies such as physical distancing, wearing masks and self-isolating if they have symptoms.
With reports from REINA C. TOLENTINO and AP