Health experts recommend ECQ extension; gov’t to consider ‘total health’ of Filipinos in decision-making

Published March 29, 2021, 6:03 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

The total health of the people will be primary consideration before the government decides on whether or not to extend the strict lockdown in Metro Manila and nearby provinces, Malacañang said Monday, March 29.


Presidential spokesman Harry Roque admitted that the country’s health experts have recommended an extension of the weeklong enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) to further stem the spread of the coronavirus. 

The cost-benefit analysis of the proposed ECQ extension, including the impact on hunger, unemployment and deaths, will be studied and discussed by the government task force in charge of addressing the pandemic, according to Roque. 

“Hindi masyado natin mapabababa rin ang numero ng mga kaso maski pa tayo po’y mag-extend ng ECQ kaya binabalanse po natin ngayon iyan, kinukonsidera natin iyong total health ng ating mga kababayan, iyong cost-benefit analysis in terms of iyong mga karagdagang Pilipinong magugutom at mamamatay sa iba pang mga dahilan bukod po sa COVID-19  (We cannot substantially reduce the number of cases even if we extend the ECQ so we are trying to balance it today. We consider the total health of our people, the cost-benefit analysis in terms of the additional Filipinos who will get hungry and die from reasons other than COVID-19),” Roque said during a televised press briefing Monday, March 29.

Roque said the government’s capacity to provide assistance to people affected by the lockdown will also be taken into consideration.

“Ganyan po iyong ating decision-making process, napakaselan po talaga dahil kung ang susundin lang natin ay iyong isang aspeto na dapat pababain ang numero ng COVID-19 eh baka naman po mas maraming mamatay dahil po sa pagkagutom (That’s our decision-making process. It is really sensitive because if we will follow only one aspect which is to bring down the COVID-19 cases, more people might die due to hunger),” he said.

“At titingnan din po natin siyempre iyong kakayahan na magbigay pa nang malawakang assistance kasi napakadami pong bibigyan ng assistance, kada linggo ng ECQ 22.9 million Filipinos po ang bibigyan ng assistance(We are also looking at our capacity to give widespread assistance because many people will be given aid. Every week of ECQ, we will give assistance to 22.9 million Filipinos),” he said.

In the graph on projected cases in Metro Manila shown by Roque, an ECQ implementation from March 29 to April 4 in the capital region could contain the cases of infections to around 550,000 to 600,000. 

If the ECQ would be extended until April 18, the coronavirus cases in Metro Manila could be contained to below 500,000. 

But if the NCR bubble was not implemented at all, the cases of coronavirus would have soared to close a million.

Under the chart, Roque noted the projection showed the one-week ECQ would not be enough to continuously bring the case number down.

Of the country’s more than 730,000 cases of coronavirus, Metro Manila has recorded 311,930 cases, including 57,997 active cases and 4,975 deaths as of March 28.

Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal have been placed back on ECQ from March 29 to April 4 in the government’s drastic attempt to curb the rapid increase in coronavirus cases.  People are required to stay at home at all times except for essential work and needs. Mass gatherings have been prohibited while operations of businesses and public transportation have been reduced to break the fast COVID-19 transmission.

Roque explained the ECQ implementation seeks reduce the number of active cases, normalize the health care capacity, and save more lives.

During the lockdown, he said the government would continue to scale up measures to prevent, detect, isolate, and treat coronavirus cases in the country. He said preventive measures included wearing of masks, frequent washing of hands, and physical distancing. COVID-19 detection efforts involved aggressive contact tracing through as well as expanded community testing.

The country has seen an alarming rise in new coronavirus cases in recent days, that pushed the total to 731,894 as of March 29. A record-high of 10,016 new cases was tallied on Monday.