The government will have to be more active in enforcing strict localized lockdowns if Metro Manila returns to the more relaxed general community quarantine (GCQ) to limit the spread of the coronavirus, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said Friday.
According to Nograles, there must be swift and efficient implementation of localized community quarantine in specific areas with high cases of infections, coupled with intensified testing, tracing, and isolation of patients with the illness.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Infectious Diseases (IATF) is expected to meet Friday to review the coronavirus data and determine the new quarantine status of Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal which are under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) until Aug. 18.
The recommendation of the IATF will then be submitted to President Duterte for his final decision. The fresh quarantine classification will be announced by the President on Aug. 17.
"We can retain MECQ but again siyempre the economy will be something we must consider. Otherwise, if we go GCQ, we will have to be very strict doon sa ating localized lockdowns. We have to be more active in localized lockdowns," Nograles said over ABS-CBN News Channel Friday.
"With Cabinet secretaries assigned to cities of Metro Manila now then we can assure the public, even if mag-GCQ, mas magiging aktibo ang pag localized lockdown natin. That's the other option na puwede (Even if we go back to GCQ, there will be more active implementation of localized lockdown. That's the other possible option)," he added.
The IATF recently assigned Cabinet members to monitor the coronavirus response in the cities of Metro Manila and the four nearby provinces with high cases of infections. The Cabinet officials are reportedly considered "big brothers" to assist the local government units in the fight against the coronavirus.
Asked if the deployment of the Cabinet members is part of the preparation for the shift to GCQ, Nograles explained that such mechanism has been put in place to help enhance the pandemic response regardless of the quarantine classification.
"Whether or not, whatever the decision is, this feature was added just to help Metro Manila cities. so wherever we go, whether we retain MECQ or GCQ, that mechanism was put in place just to enable us to duplicate and replicate what happened in Cebu City," he said.
Nograles said the task force has already made the "first pass" on the coronavirus situation across the country and informed the concerned mayors about its preliminary recommendation on the quarantine level. He said they would listen to any appeal or concern that will be raised by the concerned mayors during the IATF meeting Friday.
Nograles said it is up to the President to decide if the MECQ status of Metro Manila and nearby areas will be retained or modified.
These five areas were originally placed under GCQ but downgraded to the more restrictive MECQ until Aug. 18 following a timeout plea from the health frontliners. The medical community has warned against the collapse of the healthcare system from the surge in infections if tighter controls are not put in place.
The Palace had earlier said the proposed MECQ extension, which included a ban on public transportation, is unlikely after the government ran out of funds for cash assistance to sectors affected by the pandemic.
Batangas, Lapu-Lapu City, Mandaue City, Talisay City, Minglanilla and Consolacion in Cebu, and Zamboanga City are under general community quarantine until Aug. 15. The rest of the country is under the most relaxed modified general community quarantine (MGCQ).