A PROLONGED implementation of the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) is “not a sustainable strategy” to manage the impacts of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. yesterday said.
This, Galvez said, plus the collateral effect of the pandemic on the livelihood of the people and the country’s economy in general, was the rationale for the decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to recommend the return to general community quarantine (GCQ) of Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal from August 19 to 31.
President Duterte on Monday night approved the IATF recommendation.
Over the weekend, Malacañang placed Nueva Ecija, Batangas, Quezon, Iloilo City, Cebu City, Lapu Lapu City, Mandaue City, Talisay City, and the municipalities of Minglanilla and Consolacion in Cebu province under GCQ from August 16 to 31, while the rest of the provinces and municipalities all over the country are the modified general community quarantine (MGCQ).
“Nakita po namin na MECQ is not a sustainable strategy; ang pinaka-way forward talaga po iyong granular implementation ng lockdowns. Kasi po kapag nag-MECQ po tayo, ang laki po ng collateral sa livelihood ng mga tao po natin (We saw that MECQ is not a sustainable strategy. The way to move forward is the granular implementation of lockdowns. If we are under MECQ, it has a huge collateral on the livelihood of our people),” Galvez said in a briefing.
Health undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire warned that having eased lockdowns will most likely result to more transmission of the virus, just like in previous instances.
Vergeire said she will not be surprised if the country sees more positive cases in the coming days. “Whenever we ease out or deescalate these restrictions we have, we expect that there will be higher cases as what happened to us when we deescalated to GCQ in the past,” said Vergeire.
Asked how much increase can be expected, the health official said it will be hard to estimate at this time.
“We will only deescalate tonight, so we will see how the mobility of people will be able to contribute with the rise in cases,” said Vergeire.
Galvez emphasized the need to empower local government units (LGU) to implement the lockdown of smaller areas and oversee the strict compliance of their constituents to ensure that the response and interventions are more effective.
He said city and town mayors should be prepared to do what needs to be done to address the pandemic and ensure their people’s safety, and at the same time work with the business sector to revive the economy.
Galvez said the government had used the last two weeks to improve and “localize” the National Action Plan against COVID-19 with the help of local government officials who are more aware of the actual condition in areas under them.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, in the same briefing, said while under the GCQ, government will continue to intensify its testing, isolation of patients and treatment of those who will test positive for COVID-19.
He said the use of pooled testing, which allows the testing of several people using a single test kit, has already started while testing czar Vivencio Dizon said the country has already surpassed the two million testing mark following intensified testing being done by government.
Roque said authorities would also be conducting house-to-house search for symptomatic patients, which the government has pilot tested during the MECQ under the Project Code program. He said those who exhibited COVID-19 symptoms had been swabbed and those who tested positive were isolated for treatment.
IATF has issued Resolution No. 64 which activated and deployed the Finding Active Cases Teams (FACTS) and Contact Tracing Teams (CTTs) where teams shall “visit homes of non-case, non-contacts within the critical and containment zone of the priority area to investigate if possibly a suspect case or contact of a known suspect, probable or confirmed case resides in the area,” and “coordinate or visit homes and workplaces to complete and verify profiles of suspect, probable, confirmed cases and their contacts,” respectively.
Patients identified are referred to hospitals through the One Hospital Command Center in the National Capital Region or through the existing referral network in other areas.
Roque said massive contact tracing is also being done with a target of tracing at least 15 close contact persons for every infected patient.
He said isolation facilities are being built while more hospital beds are being allotted for COVID-19 patients.
To complement the government efforts, Roque reiterated the need for the public’s cooperation and adherence to the minimum public health standards particularly in high risk areas such as healthcare settings, wet markets, supermarkets, government offices, workplaces, public transportation, and areas with increased economic activity. – With Gerard Naval