PRESIDENTIAL spokesman Harry Roque yesterday said some provinces have appealed to the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to place their areas under a stricter lockdown regulation starting today, July 1.
Roque did not say which local government units want to be under a more stringent stay-at-home regulation but said the appeals came from the provinces of Cebu, Bulacan and Cagayan.
“Mas marami po gustong mas higpitan. Parang tatlo po iyong mas gustong mas higpitan, isa po iyong downgrading (Many of them want stricter quarantine. Three wants stricter quarantines, while one wants a downgrading),” Roque said.
The provinces of Cebu, Bulacan and Cagayan are under general community quarantine as of yesterday, June 30.
President Duterte was expected to announce Tuesday night new community quarantine assignments for various provinces and municipalities in the country. The last imposed lockdowns lapsed last night.
Cebu City was under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) until June 30, while Talisay City was under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).
Apart from Cebu, Bulacan and Cagayan, other areas under GCQ are Metro Manila, along with Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino and Santiago City in Cagayan Valley (Region 2); Aurora, Bataan, Olongapo, and Tarlac in Central Luzon (Region 3); Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon in Calabarzon (Region 4-A); Occidental Mindoro in Mimaropa (Region 4-B), Bohol, Negros Oriental, Siquijor, Mandaue City, and Lapu-Lapu City in Central Visayas (Region 7); and Davao City and Zamboanga City.
Roque reiterated the need to observe and strictly practice minimum public health standards to combat the coronavirus after the interagency task force ordered a “revisit (of) strategies in combating COVID-19 to ensure that there is balance between health and economy.”
He said the IATF, under Resolution 50, acknowledged the need to boost the confidence of people to go back to work and to restore consumption demand and this could be accomplished through the expanding of COVID-19 testing coverage to include segments of the population that are recommended by the National Task Force in consultation and coordination with the Department of Health Technical Advisory Group and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation.
The IATF also ordered a consultation between the national government and local government units in Region III (Central Luzon), IV-A (Calabarzon), and the National Capital Region towards the “easing up of community quarantine status” to start on efforts to move up the economy.
The task force also ordered the strict enforcement of minimum public health standards, ensuring the protection of vulnerable populations, maximizing the Test, Trace, and Isolate and Treat (TTIT) infrastructure, and using the full support of strategic communications.
Roque said the government also plans to accelerate testing capacity to one million by the end of July to lower the positivity rate to 3 percent from the current 6 percent, and implement more localized quarantines at the municipal or barangay levels once evidence of steady progress towards meeting the targets is observed.
He said the government also wants to optimize the use of sufficient and safe public transportation to facilitate the opening up of the economy. He said government remains committed to providing subsidy package for the public transportation sector which he said involves a P17 billion program that is pending in Congress.
Quiapo Church Parochial Vicar Fr. Douglas Badong said the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene (Quiapo Church) in Manila is ready to reopen on Sunday after it was recently rocked by COVID-19.
Quiapo Church has been in lockdown since June 19 after a guest priest of the Minor Basilica was tested positive upon his return to Mindanao last June 13. The guest priest has already recovered from the disease and is now considered as COVID-19 free.
“If we follow the protocol, we have until July 4 to be under self quarantine,” said Badong.
He said they are hopeful that it will not be necessary to extend the lockdown of the Quiapo Church further considering that none of them have so far tested positive from the novel virus.
“Last Wednesday, all of us underwent rapid testing, and everybody tested negative,” said the priest.
In addition, he said none of the priests and office personnel has manifested symptoms of COVID-19.
“We do self monitoring and, so far, nobody has shown any symptoms,” he added.
While on lockdown, the church was disinfected and all its personnel and priests underwent self quarantine as provided by existing health protocols.
Meanwhile, the Office of the Solicitor was put on lockdown yesterday after one of its employees tested positive for COVID-19 during a rapid antibody testing conducted on OSG staff. – With Gerard Naval and Ashzel Hachero