Shift could lead to 2,400 COVID-19 cases daily in Metro Manila – OCTA Research
By NOREEN JAZUL, JOSEPH PEDRAJAS, and ELLALYN DE VERA-RUIZ
Metro Manila mayors, voting 9-8, favor the shift to Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ), the least stringent quarantine mode in the country, in the National Capital Region (NCR) starting March.
Navotas Mayor Toby Tiangco said Metro Manila mayors now want to downgrade the National Capital Region’s (NCR) quarantine status, starting in March, to MGCQ.
“Kakatapos lang ng botohan. Nanalo is MGCQ. Ang pinili sa amin kasi is MGCQ – 15 to 65 or GCQ — 15 to 65…Ang nanalo is MGCQ 15 – 65. Nine to eight, in favor (We’ve just finished voting. The choices were MGCQ – 15 to 65 or GCQ – 15 to 65…MGCQ – 15 to 65 won with nine to eight votes, in favor),” Tiangco told DZBB in an interview Thursday.
Tiangco said nine out of 17 Metro mayors already wanted to shift to MGCQ.
Four of the remaining eight mayors preferred to retain the GCQ status, although they already gave those 15 to 65 years old the permission to go outside their houses.
The other four mayors, meanwhile, not only wanted to retain the GCQ status but also to keep the current guideline, in which only those 18 to 65 years old are allowed outside.
Tiangco clarified that the mayors had different proposals:
• Shift to MGCQ but already allow those 15 to 65 years old outside.
• Retain the GCQ status but already allow those 15 to 65 years old outside.
• Retain the GCQ status and only allow 18 to 65 years outside.
Shift to MGCQ risky
But a study by OCTA Research said placing the entire Philippines under the least stringent modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) status could push Metro Manila’s coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases to 2,400 per day by March 26, the OCTA Research Team warned in a study released on Wednesday, Feb. 17.
“The proposal to shift NCR (National Capital Region) to MGCQ by March 2021 amidst the backdrop of a more contagious and lethal UK variant spreading in the regions is not just risky but also contrary to sensible epidemic management,” the group pointed out.
The experts noted that the NCR had 2,400 cases per day in August 2020 when the pandemic became “unmanageable,” pushing the metropolis to be placed under a stricter quarantine to curb COVID-19 transmissions.
“If restrictions in NCR are relaxed to very loose levels, the region will be under a constant threat of a surge due to the increased mobility of people, reduced social distancing and diminished compliance with health protocols, as was observed at the outset of the December holidays,” it added.
Meanwhile, Tiangco said as much as he wanted to retain Navotas’ GCQ status, Metro mayors should have a collective decision that will be based on the majority vote as it would be hard for them to impose different restrictions in just one region.
“I cannot impose quarantine status that is different from other Metro Manila cities because we have no defined boundaries. This is not like when going to the provinces where you can limit the entry of the people. Here in Metro Manila, you can just simply jump to another city, which already has other quarantine rules,” Tiangco said.
Tiangco said the Metro mayors did not give explanations regarding their votes, but reviving the economy was a point of concern that was raised to them during their meeting with economic managers.
Marikina Mayor Marcy Teodoro said many among the Metro mayors want a gradual and careful re-opening of the economy and are still wary about the easing of restrictions for the entire country by March 1 as proposed by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).
The Metro Manila Council (MMC) met Wednesday night to discuss the proposal, along with other matters such as the re-opening of cinemas and the lowering of age requirement for persons allowed outside of their residences.
“Di ito kailangan biglaan. Kumbaga, easy lang tayo. Kailangan gradual ang pagbubukas at meron tayong consistent health protocols na magtitiyak na yung pagbaba ng kaso ng COVID-19 ay mapapanatili dahil may mga research tayong nakikita at mga pangyayari, mga datos na galing sa mga LGUs (local government units) na nagkakaroon ng muling pagtaas kung di nagiging maingat tayo (We don’t need to rush. Let’s take it easy. We should gradually open [the economy] and there should be consistent health protocols in place to make sure that we will be able to maintain the low number of COVID-19 cases because there have been researches, instances, data from LGUs, which showed that there can be an uptick in cases if we’re not careful),” Teodoro said in an interview with DZMM Teleradyo.
Teodoro also suggested making daily wage earners a priority in the vaccination program if the government decides to re-open the economy by further relaxing the quarantine level to the Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) by March.
Expansion of public transportation routes should also be done, he added.
“Dagdagan ‘yang mga nagbibiyahe na pampublikong sasakyan para kung sa ganon, kung may mga papasok na mangagawa, lalabas na mga bata kung magkaroon ng limited face-to-face [classes] at meron silang safe public transport system (Allow more public vehicles to operate so that when workers return, as well as children if ever there will be a limited face-to-face [classes], at least, they will have a safe public transport system),” he said.
The Marikina mayor underscored that there should be a “support mechanism” in place before the country relaxes its restrictions.
Teodoro said while Metro Manila mayors are “in agreement” with NEDA’s reasons for re-opening the economy, they believe that economic concerns and health concerns should be balanced.
“Magusap ‘yung mga eksperto dito. Magkaroon ng rekomendasyon sila at tingnan ang kapasidad ng mga LGUs to enforce guidelines and protocols na manggagaling sa IATF [Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases] (The experts should discuss this matter. They should come up with a recommendation and look into the capacity of the LGU to enforce guidelines and protocols coming from the IATF),” he said.
Metro Manila mayors, he said, will still have consensus-building sessions in the next two days and will submit their recommendations to the IATF.
Teodoro said the mayors saw no need to lower the age restrictions and warned that children aged five might be “super spreaders.”