The modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) is "not a sustainable strategy" in dealing with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and the way to move forward is through the strict implementation of localized lockdown in the communities.
National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez said Tuesday that this was among the things that he learned after Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal were placed under MECQ from April 4 to 18 following an appeal from the medical community.
"Ang importante po na nakita namin na MECQ is not a sustainable strategy. Ang pinaka-way forward ay 'yong granular implementation ng lockdown (One important thing that we observed was that MECQ is not a sustainable strategy. The way to move forward is through the implementation of granular lockdown)," he said in a virtual press briefing when asked if the two-week timeout was a "success."
"Kasi po kapag nag-MECQ tayo, ang laki ng collateral sa livelihood ng mga tao (There is a big collateral on the part of the livelihood of the people when we are under the MECQ)," he stressed.
Early this month, leading medical institutions and organizations wrote a letter to President Duterte to place Metro Manila and several nearby provinces under the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) as a surge of infections was recorded with the easing of restrictions and opening of the economy.
Duterte decided to strike a balance between the health and the economy by imposing MECQ in the said areas.
Last week, the Palace said that the country was incurring an estimated P18-billion daily economic loss due to MECQ.
This particular reason is convincing Galvez to recommend to the policy-maker Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) to rule out MECQ as one of the community quarantine statuses.
"Titignan po natin pero ang way forward natin talaga ay hindi na tayo makabalik sa MECQ dahil malaki po ang damage nito sa ating ekonomiya (We'll think about it but really, the way to move forward is to avoid reverting back to MECQ because it deals a lot of damage in our economy)," Galvez said.
However, the chief implementer said the NTF and the IATF "exploited" the MECQ period to strengthen the country's health care capacity, and coordinate the response of local government units with the national government.
This, he said, was done in preparation for the transition of the NCR and the four provinces to the more relaxed general community quarantine (GCQ) from August 19 to 31.
He also acknowledged the appeal of the local chief executives in Metro Manila to have a "stricter policy" when the economy opens up anew to prevent another surge of cases.
He said Metro Manila mayors wanted to have a dialogue with the business sector to iron out the coordination as to the implementation of health measures including testing and contact tracing.
He also said the NTF is also planning to further improve the health care system in Metro Manila since there are good chances that the primary economic region will be placed under the modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) to revive the economy.
"Laging dapat two steps or three steps ahead po tayo. Dapat ang preparation natin hindi lang for GCQ (We need to be two or three steps ahead. Our preparation should not only be focused when we are under the GCQ)," he said.