In the coming months, there will be need to constantly balance the concerns of various interests as we proceed to dismantle restrictions with the gradually improving COVID-19 situation in the country.
After opposing an earlier proposal of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) to ease the General Community Quarantine (GCQ) restrictions in Metro Manila to Modified GCQ, (MGCQ), the mayors of Metro Manila’s 17 cities and town voted last Thursday for a shift to MGCQ .
Manila Mayor Isko Moreno explained his vote: “We need to create some economic activity.” Malabon Mayor Antolin Oreta III said he could hardly tell the difference anyway between GCQ and MGCQ. On the other hand, Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian said he voted against easing the restrictions because COVID-19 cases were rising in his city.
On the same day, the OCTA Research Team said it is risky to ease Metro Manila restrictions to MGCQ because of rising cases in the world of new and more contagious and lethal COVID variants. “If restrictions in the National Capital Region 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,” OCTA said.
It is true that with every move to ease restrictions, there is bound to be some rise in infections, as some people simply cannot stay true to the continued need for masks, distancing, and hygiene. We may therefore expect some rise in the number of cases when Metro Manla shifts to MGCQ this March.
This is the same position taken by the World Health Organization (WHO) on the worldwide situation. Easing of quarantine measures must be done in a targeted, calibrated manner, WHO representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said.
There is need to ease the restrictions which have locked down Metro Manila for nearly a year now, resulting in loss of income for thusands of families amid the closure of so many businesses and industries.
There is also the report of the Department of Health last February 17 that from January, 2020, to November, 2020, there were 553,434 deaths in the country, but only 2 percent -– 11,577 -– were caused by COVID-19. The proportion of COVID-19 deaths hit 17 percent in April, 2020, dropped to 5.6 percent in May, to 2.2 percent in July, down to 1.9 percent in January, 2021.
Another report of the Department of Trade and Industry said some 1.6 million Filipinos lost their jobs or have not yet returned to work in the pandemic. This should be enough reason to push the relaxation of the community quarantine rules, Secretary Ramon Lopez said.
President Duterte is expected to announce his decision on the issue today. He may well heed the decision of the Metro Manila mayors and ease the region into Modified GCQ, but in a targeted, calibrated manner, as stressed by the WHO.