P30B lost income from 2-week ECQ

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    Scene from a lockdown. NEDA estimates the two-week ECQ would result in some 252,000 more individuals without jobs. Photo by RHOY COBILLA

    The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is laying down plans for a post-enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) scenario as the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) estimates the two-week ECQ would result to income loss of almost P30 billion and may shave off 0.8 percentage points from the country’s economic growth in 2021.

    “The economy will take a hit during this ECQ,” said DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez in an interview over SRO on Teleradyo Monday night.

    Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua in a statement said NEDA estimates the two-week ECQ would result in some 252,000 more individuals without jobs and 102,000 more poor individuals and translates to a daily household income loss of P2.1 billion.

    Chua added extending the ECQ will also have a negative impact on the majority of people.

    Lopez said a post-ECQ plan — which can be considered a modified ECQ (MECQ) — would entail a calibrated reopening of low-risk, essential sectors to cushion the blow of this strict lockdown.

    Lopez said only carefully handpicked sectors will reopen while those previously closed can resume operations only up to 50 percent of capacity.

    Lopez said to remain closed are high-risk, non-essential activities such mass gatherings, including family events that congregate different households , and where the spread of the highly-transmissible new variant is prevalent.

    Offhand, Lopez said sectors which would remain closed post-ECQ include cinemas, arcades, internet cafes, spas, gyms, indoor restaurants .

    “Generally it’s not good to prolong the ECQ but we have to look at the numbers and the gravity of COVID cases. The big consideration is the health utilization rate, if the healthcare capacity is adequate and if more ICU (intensive care unit) rooms are available,” Lopez said.

    He added the ECQ should ideally be short to give leg room and a timeout for the health care system while enhancing the government’s so-called Prevent-Detect-Isolate- Treat-Reintegrate (PDITR) strategy.

    “It’s the whole system (that has to work together) so the ECQ won’t go to waste,” Lopez said.

    Chua in his statement called for a more intensified implementation of the PIDTR saying “ECQ alone does not reduce cases” especially with the new variant in place.

    Chua said the PDITR strategy worked between August 2020 and February 2021 when the country was able to reduce cases to below 2,000 per day, which allowed for the gradual opening of the economy.

    “Between March 31 to May 15, 2021, an additional week of ECQ is estimated to help avert 215,320 cases, of which 6,460 are severe and critical. We can also prevent 4,026 COVID-19 deaths,” Chua said.

    He said in using this time to significantly upgrade the country’s health systems capacity, where testing and isolation are intensified, the benefits would be even greater at additional 323,262 COVID-19 cases that may be averted, of which 9,698 are severe and critical, while preventing 6,045 deaths from COVID-19.