Proactive ECQ needed to sustain recovery despite ‘Delta’

Published July 31, 2021, 12:12 AM

by Manila Bulletin

A university-based research group first broached the idea of a “circuit-breaker lockdown” against the Delta variant that is known to be “more transmissible, potentially deadlier, and can spread quickly faster.”

The Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship, speaking on behalf of the private sector, echoed: “If we have to do it, let us do it. Let us prepare for it. We have to be decisive. We have to move quickly.”

Then the Chairman of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), announced, “Lahat nakapirma, lahat kami (All of us signed it),” while holding a resolution signed by himself and the 17 Metro mayors. He pointed out a caveat: “Provided that the government can provide social amelioration.”

On July 29, the Presidential Spokesman announced:  “The Chief Executive extended the General Community Quarantine (GCQ) with heightened restrictions classification of the National Capital Region beginning August 1, 2021 until August 15, 2021.

He said that the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emergent Infectious Diseases observed an increase in the daily attack rate, two-week average attack rate, and health care utilization rate in the country’s metropolis.

Barely a day after, he made a new announcement, modifying the previous day’s dispatch: Metro Manila will be placed under the most restrictive enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) from August 6 to 20.  He said that while this was a difficult decision, the President acted to ensure that more lives would be saved, and that the people’s welfare would be promoted.

The Metro Manila mayors’ insistence on the provision of cash assistance (‘ayuda’) following the precedents set by the Bayanihan emergency laws deserves serious attention, considering that an ECQ invariably leads to more job losses and reduced income opportunities.

A review of the dynamics of decision making affords the citizenry an opportunity to assess how well the government is managing the national health emergency that has festered for 16 months – and counting.

The latest ECQ announcement was prompted by the concern, first raised by the OCTA research group, that Metro Manila was already experiencing a “surge” noting an increase in the reproduction number from 0.6 in June to 1.33 – an R number above one signifies an acceleration of the transmission rate.

In the case of the deadly Delta variant, the reported number of cases suffers from a serious lag – as the Philippine Genome Center is only sequencing a small fraction of the positive cases, promoting a proposal to set up additional capacity for genome assessment.

Concern over the deadly Delta variant is now a global concern. The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention is urging “everyone (including fully vaccinated individuals) to wear a mask in public indoor settings.” Government and big business firms are bearing down on vaccine-hesitant persons that are being attacked by the lethal virus. Governors of states that previously resisted vaccines and masking have reversed course as their health facilities are now being overwhelmed.

Taking proactive action is imperative.  The country could ill afford another major setback just when the economy has resumed its upward trajectory.