By Hannah Torregoza
The Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID) should ensure that anti-COVID-19 mechanisms are in place prior to the lifting or modification of the enhanced community quarantine, senators said on Monday.
Palace officials have said that President Duterte will make a decision this week on whether to lift or extend the strict quarantine measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros said the Department of Health (DOH) should double efforts to conduct mass testing of Filipinos before considering lifting or modifying the extended ECQ.
“Whether the ECQ is extended or modified, we cannot proceed without devoting more efforts towards mass testing of Filipinos,” Hontiveros said.
“I hope the DOH takes heed of the ever-growing calls of our health experts, advocates and local officials on the ground for urgent, free and widespread testing in our communities,” she said.
Hontiveros added that quarantines and social distancing, while important, are clearly only part of the solution.
“We can only end this pandemic if we identify, isolate and treat every person infected with COVID-19,” she said.
Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, for his part, stressed the need to keep the public well-informed regarding any changes or modification of the ECQ especially before the end of April 30.
Angara said any decision to be made by the government cannot come as a surprise to a population of 108 million.
“It must be announced and preparations must be made especially if there is some relaxation or lifting of the quarantines as has been suggested by some sectors recently,” Angara said.
Angara said the government should be prepared to do things gradually to prevent any large scale outbreaks and allow certain more essential services and industries to operate.
The government can also allow some public transport, some stores and smaller establishments to operate but strict guidelines against COVID-19 should be observed.
“This must be done after fully preparing local governments down to the barangay level for the do’s and don’ts,” Angara said.