There’s a 50 percent chance that the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the National Capital Region Plus (NCR Plus) bubble will be extended to curb the surging number of COVID-19 cases in the country, a Palace official said on Tuesday, March 30.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said that the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on COVID-19 Response will discuss on Saturday, April 3, if it will recommend to President Duterte to extend the ECQ in NCR Plus, which covers Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna, and Cavite.
The ECQ, the most restrictive type of government lockdown, is in force from March 29 to April 4.
“I would say it’s a 50-50 (probability). We are hoping na yung one-week bubble natin at saka iyong one week ECQ natin (that the one-week bubble and one-week ECQ) will lead to lower numbers,” he said during a virtual press briefing.
Roque, who is also the IATF’s spokesman, said that the goal of the ECQ is to ease the pressure on the health care sector’s critical care capacity.
“Ang ating iniiwasan ay ‘yung ma-overwhelm po ang ating mga hospitals. Kinakailangan po magamit natin ‘yung dalawang porsyento na (inirereserba para sa)magkakasakit ng malubha (What we are trying to avoid is for the hospitals to get overwhelmed. We need two percent of the hospitals reserved for those in critical condition),” he said.
Reports on social media said that people with COVID and non-COVID symptoms can no longer find hospitals that can accommodate them because the ICU units and isolation beds of hospitals are at full capacity.
Roque added that the capacity of the hospitals to accommodate patients will be one of the things to be discussed over the weekend.
“Another week or two weeks of ECQ” is the “absolute last resort,” he said, though the government expects that it will not need to extend imposing the ECQ in the NCR Plus bubble because of the one-week lockdown and the strict implementation of health protocols.
“The first option po (The first option) is actually to resort to reopening the economy if possible ‘no kasi alam naman natin itong ayudang binibigay natin is stop gap. Hindi naman po talaga ‘yan para sa total health ng ating mga kababayan (we know that the cash assistance we’re giving is just a stop gap measure. This is not for the total health of our fellowmen),” Roque said.
“It is just to let them survive from meal to meal. So, mas importante po mabigyan ng pagkakataong makapagtrabaho ang lahat (it is more important to give everyone a chance to work),” he added.
The government announced on Saturday, March 27, that it will put NCR Plus under ECQ, the strictest community quarantine level, similar to the complete lockdown announced in March last year.