By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
The Department of Health (DOH) said it was too early to consider placing Metro Manila on a lockdown, saying there was still no evidence of sustained community transmission of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) to prompt such an action.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III made the statement after Albay 2nd district Rep. Joey Salceda proposed that Metro Manila should be locked down to slow down the transmission of the disease.
In a press briefing in Malacañang, Duque said their protocol suggests that it is not yet the time to place Metro Manila on lockdown.
“The protocol, in fact, includes that it might be premature to do it at this point. So we will have to wait until evidence of sustained community transmission is presented,” he said Monday.
According to Salceda, classes should be suspended in the National Capital Region (NCR), because Metro Manila was were all the COVID-19 cases are. He added that work should be stopped for one week, no bus trips, no domestic flights, and no grand staycations.
He likewise proposed the closure of the North Luzon and South Luzon expressways (NLEX and SLEX) and railways; and that food, medicines, and health professionals are the only ones that should be allowed to enter Metro Manila during the temporary entry ban.
“A lockdown of NCR should not be off the table if needed to slow down the transmission of COVID-19,” Salceda said.
“The costs of mass community transmission far outweigh the economic losses arising from preemptive actions. Zero casualty doctrine should extend to all emergencies, especially health emergencies.”
In the press briefing in Malacañang, Duque said it was up to the local government units to suspend classes and work and their decision regarding the matter should be followed and requested.
He added there was also an option to ensure that there was augmentation or preparedness on the part of unaffected regions and local governments. He said they can also tap the military and the police to complement the efforts of local chief executives and local health officials in the affected communities.
“These are some of the options being considered. But it might be premature at this point,” Duque said. “However, let me just reiterate, that we have to respect the local chief executives’ decision to suspend classes and that must be followed by all concerned.”
Meanwhile, Duque said he would personally, on behalf of the Philippine government, request Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian to provide as many as testing kits as they can to the Philippines.
“This would be very good, provided that there’s going to be the WHO (World Health Organization) experts [who] will validate the effectiveness of such a testing kit. There’s very little or limited knowledge we know about the testing kits being used by China, South Korea,” he said.
The Health Secretary said it was important to validate the effectiveness of the testing kits because it would be a “scary” to have false negatives.
“You say a person is negative, ‘yun pala (but he’s really) positive. And then, you know, you let them go, thinking they’re okay. So we have to be very, very cautious about this,” Duque said.