NCR under threat of reverting to MECQ

Published July 28, 2020, 7:21 AM

by Noreen Jazul & Betheena Unite

An expert from the University of the Philippines (UP) is recommending a stricter lockdown in the National Capital Region (NCR or Metro Manila) if the current trend of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases does not go down. 

A member (L) of a police special action force checks for required quarantine identification from resident in Navotas in suburban Manila on July 16, 2020, after the local government reimposed a lockdown in the city due to increased COVID-19 infections. (Photo by Ted ALJIBE / AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)

“Sa ngayon mukhang makakatulong ‘yon, kasi nagsubok na tayo ng mga measures, random testing, localized lockdown, pero parang hindi yata gumagana. Unless may mga magandang ideas ‘yung gobyerno sana, baka mapilitan tayong bumalik sa mas strict na quarantine, di naman natin ginugusto ‘yan pero kung ‘yan ang kailangan mangyari (Given our situation, I think imposing a stricter quarantine will help because we already tried other measures like random testing, localized lockdown, but it seems like it’s not working. Unless the government has other ideas, I think we might need to revert to stricter quarantine and while we don’t really want that to happen, it’s what we need to do),” Dr. Guido David, a member of the UP-OCTA Research, said. 

Metro Manila is currently under General Community Quarantine (GCQ) and the next stricter quarantine level is Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ). 

MECQ being considered 

Even Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said members of the sub-technical working group of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) have been studying whether to remain under GCQ or revert to MECQ using various indicators like case doubling time of the disease and other health indicators, economic, and social security. 

“Pinag-aaralan (itong pag-revert ng MECQ). In the past week, the sub-technical working group of the interagency task force have been studying this. Tomorrow, they will already present to the IATF the decision for this coming two weeks,” Vergeire said. 

Cases of the dreaded disease have been constantly increasing since Metro Manila eased its quarantine restrictions to GCQ, which according to the DOH, is expected “due to the mobility of the population.” 

The country’s testing capacity, including testing of asymptomatic, and expanded testing protocol are cited as among the reasons behind the growing cases. 

140,000 cases by August 

With the current trend, David said the number of COVID-19 cases in the country may reach 140,000 by the end of August, with most cases coming from the NCR. 

With more than 2,000 additional cases recorded each day for the past three days, David said there is a possibility that the number of COVID-19 cases in the country by the end of July will exceed their earlier projection of 85,000. 

“Mukhang possible umabot ng 90,000, and by end of August, 140,000 (There’s a possibility that the cases will reach 90,000, and by end of August, we may have 140,000),” David told DZMM Teleradyo. 

Hospital capacity woes

 “Ang pinaka concern talaga natin ngayon ‘yung mga hospitals kung nag open tayo ngayon, kung i-allow natin ang GCQ (General Community Quarantine), ang mangyayari is kung may mga magkakasakit di na sila tatanggapin sa mga hospitals (Our main concern right now is our hospitals’ capacity. 

If we allow GCQ, and more get infected, hospitals will no longer be able to admit them),” he added. David also noted that the trend of cases in Cebu City is already going down, which only means that most of the country’s cases are really coming from NCR. 

“Na fa-flatten na yung curve sa Cebu (City), so ibig sabihin saan nanggagaling ‘tong cases na ‘to? Mostly sa NCR talaga. Iyong trend sa NCR is pataas, at saka di lang sa NCR, pati sa Calabarzon, nadamay din siya sa NCR (We have already flattened the curve in Cebu City, so where are the cases coming from? It’s mostly from NCR. The trend in NCR is going up, and not just NCR, even Calabarzon),” he said. 

Given the number of COVID-19 cases in the country, David suggested that the government re-evaluate the measures being done to control the spread of the disease.

Gov’t doing enough 

Meanwhile, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said the government’s coronavirus response may not be perfect but the administration is doing enough within its means to save lives and livelihood. 

Andanar defended the government’s containment strategy after getting a failing grade from some health experts, admitting that the government’s financial resources are limited.

“We have programs that the government have implemented for the past few months to address the huge problem of the pandemic. It’s not perfect but the entire world is grappling with this problem,” he said over ANC Headstart on Monday. 

“The government has done enough within its means because you see we do not have an infinite source of budget for the government,” he said. 

He explained that the government’s budget to bankroll various programs, from healthcare to social protection programs, is heavily dependent on the taxes collected by agencies like the Bureau of Internal Revenue. 

Andanar said the Social Amelioration Program is so far the government’s “biggest program that has given a very wide social net in terms of assistance to the public.” (With a report from Genalyn D. Kabiling)