With the health care system on the verge of collapse, the country is currently in the "critical phase" of managing the coronavirus disease pandemic, National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. declared Monday.
"We are in the critical phase of the management of the crisis," he said in a virtual press briefing, acknowledging the record-breaking new infections in the past four days.
As such, Galvez said the two-week "timeout" granted by President Duterte to exhausted medical frontliners after their appeal will be used to intensify the testing and contact tracing efforts of the government.
Duterte approved on Sunday night the recommendation of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to place Metro Manila, Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite, and Rizal under the stricter modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) from Aug. 4 to 18.
It was a dillema for the President who had to choose between the medical frontliners' distress call and the economists' warning about the dangers of yet another ECQ in Metro Manila.
Galvez himself, in a press briefing on July 13, said that the country's economy will collapse if Metro Manila is placed under ECQ anew.
Despite this, Galvez thought that the decision of the President to bring back Mega Manila to MECQ "was the right thing to do," adding that the development of a vaccine is the answer to the problems that the country is facing now.
"The enforcement of MECQ this time will be based on the original version. We will talk with the mayors to discuss the different arrangement particularly in the transportation. There will be a restriction of the movement (of people) so we can address and contain the seemingly increasing new cases," Galvez said.
"Tama ang mahal na Presidente, hangga't walang vaccine, walang kalunasan sa mga nangyayari (The President is right, until there is no vaccine, there is no solution to what is happening right now)," he said.
Among the significant changes under the MECQ include the suspension of mass transportation and the requirement of quarantine pass in the communities where only authorized person outside residence (APOR) are allowed to go out of their homes.
Under the rules of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), food and other essential services shall be provided to communities that will be affected by lockdowns.
However, Duterte said that the government has "no more money"to allot for the stipend of affected communities.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque promised though that assistance will be given to communities and the budget will be included in the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2), a proposed bill which contains a stimulus package to help the country's recovery from the pandemic.
For now, the chief implementer said the only thing that the government can do is to keep the number of fatalities at a manageable level, and sustain the "good" data on recoveries.
He said the task force is now starting the process for the procurement of potential cure such as remidisivir, and non-invasive intubators for critical and severe cases.
"Bumibili na po tayo ng gamot for example 'yong remdisivir at 'yong high flow nasal canula ay nag-i-imbak na tayo (We are now buying medicines such as remdisivir and high flow nasal canula)," he said.