The Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) said Sunday the National Capital Region (NCR) may be downgraded to a Modified General Community quarantine (MGCQ) soon if local government units (LGUs) are able to respond immediately to a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in certain areas.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles made the statement three days before the General Community Quarantine (GCQ) imposed in Metro Manila expires on Wednesday.
In an interview over Super Radyo DZBB, Nograles, who co-chairs the IATF, said Metro Manila may move one step closer to the so-called “new normal.”
“There are two ways of thinking about it. Number one, pwede naman basta mas mabilis ang localized response ng mga LGUs (it is possible as long as LGUs are quick to respond),” he said.
“‘Pag itong lugar na ito ay dapat, dahil nagspa-spike o nagsu-surge diyan, dapat mabilis ang pag-aksyon, i-ko-community quarantine mo ‘yan for 14 days ganyan (If a certain area has a sudden spike or surge of COVID19 cases, LGUs should act quickly and place it under a community quarantine for 14 days),” he added.
He said another option is to keep NCR under GCQ to give mayors time to get used to exercising their powers in placing their areas under localized community quarantine. However, Nograles said it will still be up to President Duterte to decide on July 15.
“It really depends. Kaya pagdating ng oras na malapit na sa pagdedesisyon ang Pangulo, bibigyan namin siya ng options (We will give the President options when the time comes that he has to make a decision),” he said.
Nograles said the IATF is now discouraging home quarantine since the disease is being transmitted at a faster rate under this method.
“Malaking chances na magkahawaan doon sa kanyang pamilya o kung saan siya nakatira. So we’re now shifting na kung mahawa, kahit na asymptomatic, mas bibigyan natin ng priority yung mag facility quarantine (There are higher chances of spreading the disease in the area where the patient lives. So we’re now shifting. Even if that person is asymptomatic, we will prioritize facility quarantine),” he said.
Nograles said there are still enough quarantine facilities to accommodate mild cases.
“So yun yung ating mas ifo-focus ngayon na hindi na masyado sa home quarantine. Mayroong mga cases dapat, facility quarantine na sila (We’ll shift our focus away from home quarantine. There really are cases that require facility quarantine),” he said.
Face mask ordinance
The Joint Task Force COVID Shield on Sunday urged all local government units to pass an ordinance that will compel their constituents to wear face masks and observe physical distancing in order to institutionalize the fight against COVID-19 down to the barangay level.
While a number of cities and municipalities have passed an ordinance, there are still LGUs which have not.
JTF COVID Shield commander Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar said the mandatory wearing of face masks and physical distancing are the best means to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
“The reality is that we continue to live under the threat of COVID-19 and experts said it will take months or even years before a vaccine is developed and made available to the public. So the most that we could do now is to take the preventive side and let us do it down to the barangay level,” said Eleazar.
He explained that an existing ordinance for the mandatory wearing of face masks and observation of physical distancing will empower the LGU enforcers including barangay security officers (barangay tanods) and members of the LGUs’ Public Order and Safety to help the government in stopping the spread of the virus.
There have been recent reports indicating that some people in General Community Quarantine (GCQ) and Modified GCQ areas have started being complacent on the quarantine rules.
“This is the part when enforcement should be beefed up in order to remind and warn people that the threat of coronavirus infection is still there, and this is where LGUs play a key role especially at the barangay level,” said Eleazar.
He said the police, the military, and other law-enforcement agencies are not enough to guard the entire country, and as such, the government needs all the manpower to remind the people of observing at least the minimum healthy safety protocols.
Eleazar said that since barangay tanods and the LGUs’ own Public Order and Safety personnel have been proven to be effective partners on the maintenance of peace and order in their community, the same template could be used to shield their communities from coronavirus infection.
While the police, military, and the Coast Guard are doing well to secure the control points for land, air, and sea against COVID-19, Eleazar said they still need more manpower on the preventive part in the fight against COVID-19.
The government is expected to “invest heavily” in ramping up efforts to test and track down people possibly infected with COVID-19.
As the country’s cases of coronavirus continued to increase, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said they intend to launch a new program on expanded testing efforts well as hiring of additional contact tracers in a bid to stem the spread of the disease.
“‘Yan po talaga ang ating papaigtingin, ang T3 natin – testing, tracing, and treatment. Now iyong tracing talaga, we really will invest heavily in this kaya nga magsisimula na iyong proseso ng pagkuha ng 50,000 more tracers (We will intensify our T3 — testing tracing (and treatment). On tracing, we really will invest heavily in this so the process of getting 50,000 more tracers will start),” Roque said.
Roque had earlier announced that the government aims conduct 10 million tests that will cover other frontliners and those not showing symptoms of the disease.
The accelerated testing comes following the government’s purchase of additional testing kits and other medical equipment as well as accreditation of more laboratories.
The government has proposed a ₱10-billion subsidy program for coronavirus testing under the Bayanihan 2 bill.
Another ₱15 billion will be allocated for cash-for-work program, possibly for the hiring of 50,000 contact tracers, will also be included in the proposed Bayanihan law.
Roque said President Duterte is doing everything he can to steer the country past the coronavirus pandemic.
Even though his health is not exactly 100 percent, the President continues to perform his duties, particularly in mitigating the impact of the pandemic on the people.
Roque said the President has planned trips somewhere in Mindanao this week but he declined to disclose the details for security reasons.
Duterte has been staying in Davao City since the past week.