CABINET Secretary Karlo Nograles, concurrent spokesman of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging and Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), on Sunday described as “fake news” alleged plans to extend anew the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) beyond April 30.
“Hindi po, hindi po totoo iyan. Fake news na naman po iyan. So kung may nagpapakalat man nito, hindi po namin pinag-uusapan iyong extension ng lockdown ng after April 30,” Nograles told reporters in a virtual presser.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said they are now discussing a post-April 30 lockdown scenario, including mandatory wearing of masks until a vaccine against COVID-19 is developed.
“We have a battle staff talking about the post-lockdown scenario or post April 30 scenario,” Año said in a phone interview.
The Luzon-wide lockdown was initially supposed to last until April 12. It was extended by President Duterte last week up to April 30 amid the rising number of virus infections.
Peace Adviser and National Task Force COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr., in his day-end briefing on Sunday night, said the government may implement “selective quarantine” if the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine is properly followed.
He said there is a reduction in the number of deaths and new cases and the capacity of local health units increased to a level that health workers can now react as if there is no crisis.
Año said that when the lockdown is lifted by the end of the month, “do not expect everything will be normal after the lockdown. No. Until a vaccine is developed, we are going to implement measures. If ever we lift it, we will continue to implement measures.”
Nograles said the IATF is set to meet on Monday to discuss what will happen after the lockdown is lifted.
“You have probably heard what the WHO (World Health Organization) said, their warning for countries to be careful and not just to lift the lockdown or quarantine. It should be a slow, gradual transition. That would be thoroughly discussed in the IATF, what happens after April 30,” he said.
Nograles reiterated that the government needs everyone’s continued cooperation not just while the lockdown is still in effect but also after April 30.
“Whatever the IATF decides, whatever policies are implemented while there is still no vaccine, like maintaining social distance, observing personal hygiene, continuing to disinfect, continued wearing of masks and other remedies and practices that would be sustained to prevent the spread of the virus, we would need everyone’s cooperation and help,” he said.
Galvez, in a radio interview earlier on Sunday, said the task force and the IATF will look at the different practices and policies implemented by different local governments to determine which are effective and can be replicated in other areas in the country.
Galvez cited as example the practices in the cities of Manila, Valenzuela, Marikina, Pasig, Baguio and Davao, and the Caraga and Bicol regions which he said can be good models for other provinces and cities to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The local governments of Baguio and Davao cities closed their borders and imposed a total lockdown in their jurisdictions that helped keep their cities COVID -free or with low numbers of infected persons.
Galvez said local government units can play a major role in the fight against the infectious virus, citing the successful efforts of the
Galvez said that despite the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine there are still some people who continue to violate and disregard the government guidelines, which he finds “very alarming.”
Año said the public cannot afford to return to their old “happy-go-lucky” ways once the ECQ is lifted and warned that the number of infected persons could spike when quarantine measures are relaxed.
“When there is no longer a lockdown, we should be used to washing our hands, wearing mask and observe social distancing. Maybe, there is a need for pass ordinances, law that will punish violators of social distancing,” said Año.
On the possibility of extending the lockdown anew beyond April 30, Año said the primary consideration will be epidemiological data or trends.
“Is there a slowdown (in the number of COVID-19 cases)?” he said, adding the decision will also consider the capacity of health care facilities to attend to COVID-19 patients and putting up of isolation facilities throughout the country.
He said extending or lifting the lockdown will also consider economic impact. “If we don’t lift it, we may not be able to recover from its negative effect,” he said. — with Victor Reyes