Medical expert for GCQ in NCR

Metro Manila mayors want either MECQ or ‘strict’ GCQ

A medical expert on Monday said he prefers a shift to General Community Quarantine (GCQ) with “localized lockdowns” in the National Capital Region (NCR or Metro Manila), citing declining cases in the country.

A member of the police manning a checkpoint asks to see the quarantine pass of a resident in Navotas in suburban Manila on July 16, 2020.

President Duterte was scheduled to announce the quarantine level in Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite, and Laguna after August 18 late last night.

“I personally prefer a GCQ with localized, or surgical, or what other countries call a smart lockdown,” Dr. Ted Herbosa, a special adviser to the National Task Force against COVID-19, told ANC.

“We peaked at 6,000-7,000 cases a day, and for the past several days that I’ve been monitoring, it has been averaging at 4,000, 3,000. I think we’ve reached the peak as predicted by the UP (University of the Philippines) team, and it’s probably decelerating,” he added.

In localized lockdowns, only certain houses, or buildings, or subdivisions will be confined, and not the whole city or whole district as it will be “very bad for the economy,” according to Herbosa.

“We knew very little …and many countries also were second guessing on how to handle this virus. Today, we know that this very strict city-wide or region-wide lockdown is very damaging to the economy,” he said.

Herbosa said the localized lockdowns can now work since the country now has a “wide range of testing centers.”

‘Localized strategies’

He said the strategy of the local government in containing the spread of COVID-19 has “kind of shifted” from national level to localized level.

He said strategies like contact tracing “should be happening at the community level.”

“This way, I think the smart lockdown, with the contact tracing and testing will probably work in containing the spread of the virus,” he said.

“If you have very good local implementation, I think we can really contain the transmission of this disease,” he added.

Herbosa also said the government wants to balance health and economics in the second phase of its national action plan for COVID-19.

“The government’s job is to make sure that the economy should not be so affected with what you have to do with the public health side, so it’s a big balance, it’s a difficult balancing act that we do,” he said.

MECQ or 'strict' GCQ

Meanwhile, Metro Manila mayors were scheduled Monday afternoon to recommend to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to either place the NCR under Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) or a “stricter” GCQ, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) General Manager Jose Arturo Garcia said.

Last night (August 16), the Metro Manila Council (MMC), composed of 17 mayors in the metropolis, held a meeting and discussed the situations in their respective areas in order to discern what quarantine status the Council will recommend to IATF.

“If NCR will be under GCQ, our Metro Manila mayors want a stricter GCQ,” Garcia said during an online press briefing.

Per the MMDA general manager, the mayors want stricter GCQ in terms of economic activity.

Another reason most of the mayors reportedly want GCQ is that more modes of transportation will be available to the public under this type of lockdown.

“Sasabihin ko 'yung vote ko, ang vote ko do'n ay MECQ... Pero ang majority kagabi is GCQ (I will divulge my vote, I voted for MECQ... But, majority of the mayors voted for GCQ last night,” Navotas City Mayor Toby Tiangco said over a DZBB interview on Monday.

“'Yung iba sinasabi mas marami raw public transport na allowed kapag GCQ (The others said they want GCQ because of the availability of more modes of transportation).”

Garcia said the mayors also agreed to recommend an 8 p.m. curfew should the NCR be placed under GCQ.

Garcia said they took all the salient points of raised by the mayors who prefer GCQ and MECQ, saying both sides would be taken into consideration by the IATF.

“We are getting the ideas of mayors that want GCQ, and those who prefer MECQ. We will present these ideas to the IATF. It will then be up to them,” he said.

Garcia stressed that MMC is just a recommendatory body, and has no final say on the matter.

On the other hand, the MMC wants more clarification from the IATF on the use of face shields, and if possible to issue guidelines on the use of face mask and face shield.