By Genalyn Kabiling
The proposed post-April 30 government action plan is still under study.
President Duterte has not yet reached a decision on the next course of action the government will take and instead ordered a further study and fine-tuning of “several options” including the proposed modified quarantine beyond April 30.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF) had earlier presented the options to the President on the government strategy when the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine ends this month.
The quarantine policy, declared in mid-March to contain the spread of the new coronavirus disease, was supposed to end last April 12 but has been extended until April 30 to prevent the spike in infections and further improve the government’s healthcare capacity.
“Nung nag-present ang members ng IATF to the Presidente, hindi pa nakapag-decide si Pangulong Duterte kung ano ang gagawin after April 30. Binalik niya muna sa IATF ang pagpapatuloy ng aming discussions para mas bibigyan namin si Pangulong Duterte ng more options that he can take a look at (When the IATF presented to the President, President Duterte has not yet decided on what to do after April 30. He sent it back to the IATF to continue the discussions to give him more options that he can take a look at),” Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said during a virtual press briefing on Tuesday, one day after the President met with top government officials and health experts on the coronavirus response.
“It’s not an easy decision to come up with. We still have time for the President to give his decision. We are looking at the entire week to give the President more leeway and time to make a decision. April 30 is next week pa naman,” he said.
Nograles admitted that the proposed protocols for the modified quarantine by next month are among the options presented by the IATF.
During the extensive discussion on the post-April 30 scenario, Nograles said the task force tackled guidelines for areas with coronavirus cases, determined industries and workforce that may be allowed to resume operations, set rules on public transportation, and stressed the need to retain physical distancing, among others.
“We can go on a modified quarantine if our testing capacity is expanded even more,” Nograles said.
“The more we expand our testing capacity, the more we have confidence in modifying the quarantine,” he said.
But for now, Nograles said the IAFT will continue to discuss and refine the options for the post-April 30 scenario. He said they intend to find the “best scenario decision and setup” that consider public health and welfare.
“We are in agreement that this still needs further discussion and refinement,” he said.
“We have to do another round of discussions because I feel there are many matters that have not been not put in the equation,” he said, adding that they intend to get inputs from various stakeholders.
In the coming days, Nograles said the government will continue to expand testing capacity to detect, isolate, and treat patients with coronavirus disease (COVID-19). He said they hope to see more people recovering from the illness.
Amid the ramped up testing capacity, he said that the rate of people who tested positive for coronavirus has so far decreased to 13 percent from 15 percent.
“It appears that we’re able to control it. The rate of increase is not that high anymore. We’re doing more testing so we are getting better, clearer picture of where we are now,” he said.
As of April 21, the country has a total of 17 testing laboratories nationwide, including the Philippine Red Cross facility inaugurated on Tuesday.
“Aside from these, 40 more facilities are already in the pipeline for accreditation by the DOH (Department of Health) and we are confident that we will be able to quickly add to the 55,465 individuals we have tested to date,” Nograles said.
The task force has been using five parameters, including the epidemiological curve of COVID-19 cases, capacity of health care system, and social, economic and security factors, in guiding the decision on the partial or total lifting or extension of the Luzon-wide quarantine. The World Health Organization pronouncement against the premature lifting of quarantine measures to prevent a resurgence of COVID-19 cases has also been taken into consideration by the IATF.
On Monday night, President Duterte met with Cabinet officials, members of the IATF, Congress leaders, and health experts on the government’s next possible step in addressing the pandemic. The invited guests included former health secretaries Janette Garin, Esperanza Cabral, and Jaime Galvez Tan.