Malacañang on Tuesday said there is a “50-50” chance that the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) imposed in the National Capital Region and four nearby provinces (NCR Plus) to curb the spike in Covid-19 cases will be extended beyond April 4.
In a Palace press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the decision will depend on whether new infections have slowed down.
“I would say it’s a 50-50. We’re hoping na yung one-week bubble natin at saka ang one-week ECQ natin (that the one-week bubble and one-week ECQ) would lead to lower numbers,” he said.
Roque said members of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) will be meeting on Black Saturday to finalize the quarantine classification.
“Pinag-iisipan po ito ng mabuti ng inyong IATF at sa Black Saturday ay meron po kaming muling pagpupulong para po isapinal kung ano nga po ang mangyayari. But another week or two weeks of ECQ ‘yan po ay magiging absolute last resort (The IATF is assessing it thoroughly and on Black Saturday we will have another meeting where we will finalize what will happen. But another week or two weeks of ECQ would be an absolute last resort),” he added.
He expressed hope that a week-long ECQ accompanied by the strict adherence to minimum health and safety standards would result in a drop in new infections.
“Inaasahan po natin na dahil nga po sa isang linggong ECQ kasama po ng mask, hugas, iwas, at kasama po yung maigting na CODE, yung pagbabahay-bahay para maghanap ng merong sintomas at mas pinaigting pa nating testing at isolation umaasa po tayo na sana po hindi na kinakailangan mag-ECQ (We are hoping that after a week-long ECQ accompanied by mask, wash, physical distancing, and accompanied by strict CODE or house-to-house visits to look for symptomatic patients and enhanced testing and isolation we are hoping that there would not be a need for an ECQ extension),” he said.
Roque reiterated that extending the ECQ would only be done “as a last resort” to prevent a collapse of the country’s healthcare system.
“Ang pinaka-importante is our critical care capacity. Kaya po tayo nage-ECQ is to prepare our healthcare system to treat yung mga seryosong mga magkakasakit (Critical care capacity is the most important. We reverted to ECQ to prepare our healthcare system to treat serious cases),” he said.
The ability of hospitals to attend to severe and critical Covid-19 cases, he said, will be among the primary considerations for changing the quarantine status implemented in NCR Plus.
President Rodrigo Duterte, he said, also directed concerned agencies to ensure that emergency subsidy, whether in cash or in-kind would be provided to the residents to be affected by the ECQ.
“Basta ang nasa isipan ng Presidente kung mag-e-ECQ siguraduhing mayroon tayong assistance na ilalabas para sa ating mga kababayan (The President said that if there would be an ECQ, make sure there is assistance distributed for our countrymen),” he said.
Open to recommendation
In the same Palace briefing, National Task Force (NTF) Against Covid-19 chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said the government will consider the possible ECQ extension.
“We are open to the recommendation of our expert na i-extend natin ng 14 days kasi iyon ang sinasabi nga nila na iyong inoculation period noong virus is 14 days, so isa pa rin pong open na recommendations ng mga expert po natin (We are open to the recommendation of our experts to extend another 14 days because they say the inoculation period of the virus is within 14 days, so we are open to the recommendations of our experts),” Galvez said.
He said the government will observe the Covid-19 cases during ECQ and if an exponential increase of infections will remain, intervention “that we are having” will continue.
“I think with the recommendation of the experts that we have to extend, we will look seriously at the recommendation of the experts,” he said.
Galvez said since many workers in Metro Manila reside in nearby regions of Central Luzon and Calabarzon, “same intervention” should also be considered in the provinces near the NCR.
On Monday night, Duterte retained the ECQ status over Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal until April 4.
From April 1 to 30, Santiago City in Isabela will also be placed under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).
Similarly, Quirino Province will be under MECQ from April 1 to April 15.
The entire Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR); Cagayan, Isabela, and Nueva Vizcaya in Region 2; and Batangas will be placed under general community quarantine (GCQ) until April 30.
Tacloban City; and Iligan City, Davao City, and Lanao del Sur will also be under GCQ for the whole month of April.
All other areas will be placed under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), the most relaxed quarantine classification, for the month of April.
The country has recorded a new record for single-day increases in Covid-19 cases with 10,016 new infections on Monday, increasing the overall tally to 731,894 cases of which 13,186 are deaths and 603,213 are recoveries. (PNA)