After a two-week timeout for the medical frontliners, President Duterte has approved the recommendation to place Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal back under the General Community Quarantine (GCQ) starting August 19.
In his late-night public address Monday, President Duterte said that the entire country is under Modified GCQ, the most relaxed lockdown level, until the end of the month, except for the following areas that are under GCQ:
1. Metro Manila
6. Nueva Ecija
9. Iloilo City
10. Cebu City
11. Lapu Lapu City
12. Mandaue City
13. Talisay City
14. Municipality of Minglanilla, Cebu
15. Municipality of Consolacion, Cebu
In his address, President Duterte reminded the public to follow the protocols set by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to combat COVID-19.
“Just, as I said, just be careful. Follow the safeguards,” he said.
Meanwhile, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the IATF has set conditions before recommending for the five areas under the Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ), especially Metro Manila, to be reverted back to GCQ.
“Kinakailangan buksan po natin ang ekonomiya sabay po yung tinatawag nating ‘refresh’ (We need to open the economy alongside what we call ‘refresh’)," he said.
“Ire-refresh po natin ang responses natin sa COVID, kasama na po diyan yung maigting na testing (We will refresh our COVID-19 response efforts, including our intensified testing),” he added.
President Duterte had placed Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal under MECQ from August 4 to 18 after the medical community asked for a “timeout”.
As the MECQ period neared its expiration date, President Duterte expressed unwillingness to extend the strict lockdown in the five areas, saying people needed to work to revive the economy.
Even Dr. Ted Herbosa, a special adviser to the National Task Force against COVID-19, had recommended that Metro Manila revert to GCQ.
Safeguards in place
The Department of Health (DOH) said it is expecting more coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases as the government eases the restrictive measures in many areas of the country---but assured that safeguards are in place to avoid "high number of infections."
“Whenever we ease out or we deescalate this restriction that we make, we expect that there would be cases that would be identified as what happened to us when we deescalated to GCQ (general community quarantine) in the past,” said DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire in a television interview on Tuesday, August 18.
Vergeire said that they are in close coordination with the local government units for the stricter implementation of “granular lockdowns.”
She said that they are hopeful that the number of daily cases to be reported would decrease. Since August 1, the number of daily reported cases has ranged from 3,000 to 6,900.
The Health official reiterated that there should be a balance between health and the economic aspect when easing quarantine restrictions.
A recent study of experts from the University of the Philippines showed that there is a possibility that the COVID-19 cases could reach 250,000 by the end of August if the quarantine measure is eased to GCQ.
Face masks should be worn even at home
Face masks should be worn even at home to prevent possible COVID-19 transmission among family members.
Dr. Maricar Limpin, Vice President of the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP), said there have been several instances when an entire household contracted COVID-19.
Limpin said observing social distancing in homes will also reduce the risk of family members contracting COVID-19.
“Minsan kasi kampante tayo dahil ang andun lang, ang kasama lang natin yung mga mahal natin sa buhay, pero di natin minsan alam na itong mga kasama natin sa bahay galing din pong labas na maaring makuha nila yung infections sa labas, (Sometimes we become complacent because we are with our family members. But we have to remember that when our family members go outside, there’s a chance of them getting infected),” she said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) encouraged the Philippines to communicate with its people on the importance of observing the basic health precautions and continue to improve its healthcare capacity in
WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Dr. Takeshi Kasai emphasized the importance of practicing the basic health precautions as the Philippine government eased the quarantine restrictions in many
“(It is) very important for the government to continue to communicate with the people ---encourage them to maintain their healthy behavior. The government yesterday eased the level of movement control,” said Kasai in an online briefing on Tuesday.
“It is very important for everybody to voluntarily do very similar things so that we can continue to suppress that level and not to overwhelm the healthcare facilities in this country,” he added.
Kasai said they observed that the quarantine restrictions have affected the Philippine economy.
He said that countries should “continue to refine, learn, and adjust our response in pursuit of the new normal.”
“Some of these refinements include greater targeting and earlier introduction of localized movement control measures and public health
interventions. Approaches like these are more effective and minimize social disruption and impact on economies,” said Kasai.
“COVID-19 will be with us for the foreseeable future. We know it’s a long and difficult stretch, and we will face setbacks. But we must keep trying, learning, and doing it together. How we fare is up to each and every one of us. If we make the right choices every day, we will come out of this as safe and as strong as possible,” he added.
Kasai said that countries should not just rely on the development of vaccines for COVID-19.