Villanueva pitches sectoral approach to COVID-19 quarantine measures

Published May 1, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola 

Senator Joel Villanueva has urged his colleagues to adopt a “sectoral approach” in modifying the community quarantine amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senator Joel Villanueva gestures during the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development hearing on the deaths of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), February 21,2018.(Czar Dancel / MANILA BULLETIN)

Villanueva on Friday said he filed Senate Resolution No. 377, formalizing his appeal for a sectoral approach to guide the government in gradually lifting the quarantine measures imposed to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus disease.

The resolution calls for the appropriate Senate committees to study and recommend this proposal, to help reduce the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to the country’s economy, without increasing the spread of the infection.

Villanueva said the government, in modifying the quarantine rules, should consider which sectors might contribute to the local economy’s recovery and those, on the other hand, that might worsen the coronavirus outbreak.

“Ang naging panig ng iba’t ibang sektor, maging ang mga counterparts natin sa ibat’t ibang bansa, ay nagsasabi na klaro na hindi dapat biglain yong lifting ng quarantine at unti-unting pagbuhay ng ating ekonomiya,” he explained in an interview with radio DZBB.

Villanueva, in the resolution, said the Philippines continues to have the most cases of COVID-19 infections in Southeast Asia. As of May 1, there are 8,772 confirmed cases in the country, with death toll at 579.

“While the quarantine has been found to be effective in reducing the rate of transmission of COVID-19 or in flattening the curve, it is expectedly associated with adverse effects on the supply and demand side of the economy,” he said, citing projections from economic managers and think-tanks on the impact of the pandemic.

The chair of the Senate labor committee also recalled instances when workers were apprehended for violating quarantine restrictions, “which signifies the need for affected citizens to look for food or ways to earn money, especially since government assistance is either lacking or too long in coming.”

“We must begin developing operational plans on gradual lifting of the lockdowns, keeping in mind the set of conditions recommended by the [World Health Organization],” he said.

Villanueva said the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease should consider the proposal of University of the Philippines (UP) School of Economics to modify the lockdown to allow certain sectors to resume operations and to adopt a sectoral approach.

Under this approach, sectors with low risk of spreading the virus — such as subsistence agricultural workers, workers in food and agricultural production, banking, finance institutions, and telecommunications — may be allowed to resume their operations; provided measures such as social distancing and monitoring are put in place.

On the other hand, high-value sectors such as logistics, transportation, and construction, which have high risk of spreading the virus, may be considered for reopening subject to health protocols.

Random testing should also be conducted regularly to control the transmission to slowly shift to a gradual lifting of the lockdown.

Sectors that generate mass gatherings and play less urgent roles in rebooting the economy, like schools and educational institutions, theaters, resorts, may be reopened at a later date, with the government undertaking efforts to improve alternative modes, Villanueva said.

President Duterte recently decided to extend until May 15 the enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila and other areas that are high risk for coronavirus outbreak. Moderate to low-risk areas, meanwhile, will be placed under general community quarantine.

Along with this move, the government also decided to partially open some industries to help restart the economy and aid in the country’s COVID-19 response.