By Genalyn Kabiling
Metro Manila almost did not keep its general community quarantine status (GCQ) due to the continued increase in coronavirus infections, according to a Palace official.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque admitted that Metro Manila got a “pasang-awa” or a barely passing grade to retain its GCQ classification after it nearly missed the seven-day doubling case rate.
“If I were to be candid, parang pasang-awa ang Metro Manila and that is why we remain under GCQ,” Roque said over CNN Philippines Tuesday.
“We’re looking at seven-day doubling case rate, meaning umaabot ng pitong araw bago dumoble ang kaso ng COVID (meaning it will take seven days before the cases double in number) and Manila barely made it to seven days,” he said.
He noted that Metro Manila is considered a place with moderate risk of infection since its case doubling rate has reached 6.9 days.
Metro Manila has recorded 3,145 coronavirus cases two weeks ago, compared to 1,993 four weeks ago. The growth in cases reached 1,152, according to Roque.
The doubling rate of coronavirus cases is one of the indicators considered by the inter-agency task force to determine the infection risk and quarantine classification of a certain place.
According to Roque, Metro Manila fortunately has sufficient critical care capacity that aided its retention of the GCQ status until the end of the month. Critical care utilization rate is another factor that helps determine an area’s quarantine status.
“One thing going for Manila is we have about 30 percent critical care utilization rate, which means we have about 70 percent capacity still in Metro Manila, which explains why the decision was to remain in GCQ,” Roque said.
President Duterte earlier approved the recommendation of the task force to place Metro Manila and several other places under GCQ until June 30. The rest of the country has been placed under the most relaxed modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) except for Cebu City and Talisay City which are now under the stricter enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).
In a later Palace press briefing, Roque remained hopeful that quarantine restrictions will further ease in Metro Manila.
He appealed to the public to observe the health protocols, including mask wearing, frequent hand washing and physical distancing, to contain the spread of the disease.
“Will we ever graduate to MGCQ? We hope so and that’s what we’re striving for,” he said.
“Borderline naman po ang Metro Manila, seven po means that the risk is moderate. We are at 6.9, okay? So, parang borderline po talaga tayo at ang advantage ng Metro Manila, because we are the capital, halos lahat ng critical care resources narito po sa Metro Manila (Metro Manila is in the borderline of seven meaning that the risk is moderate. We are at 6.9 okay. We are really in the borderline. The advantage of Metro Manila is because we are the capital, almost all critical care resources are in Metro Manila),” he said.
Roque said authorities have committed to be “aggressive” in implementing the GCQ measures in Metro Manila. He said the public can expect “local lockdowns on the basis of barangays, zones, roads, subdivisions or buildings” if there will be a surge in cases.
“Asahan po natin ang mas malawakang localized lockdown bagama’t ang Metro Manila po ay nasa GCQ. Ito po iyong pamamaraan talaga para mapabagal natin ang pagbagal ng sakit dahil alam naman natin na kinakailangang buksan ang ekonomiya (Let us expect an expanded localized lockdown even though Metro Manila is under GCQ. This is the way to really slow down the infections because we know we must open the economy),” he said.