Metro Manila not ready for modified quarantine

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    Vergiere (Photo from DOH)

    DOH says tracing, surveillance efforts need improvement

    LOCAL government units in the National Capital Region are not ready for eased quarantine restrictions despite a decreasing trend in the number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases, the Department of Health said yesterday.

    Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said local the government units (LGUs) in Metro Manila need to improve their contact tracing and surveillance systems, which she said are two of the “gatekeeping” measures used by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) in deciding on the level of community restrictions.
    The others are the LGU’s capacity for isolation, quarantine, testing, and case management, Vergeire said.

    “We need to see the capacities of the LGUs in these aspects so that we can determine if we can already lower the quarantine classifications or not,” she said.

    Metro Manila, epicenter of COVID-19 infections in the country, is under general community quarantine (GCQ) until the end of the month.

    On Monday, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) recommended placing the entire country under the less restrictive modified GCQ to revive the ailing economy.

    On Tuesday, the DOH reported that the National Capital Region has been seeing a negative growth rate in COVID-19 cases. However, eight cities, namely Valenzuela, Pasay, Malabon, Pasig, Makati, Navotas, Las Piñas, and Manila, continued to see increases in cases in the past two weeks.

    Vergeire said the DOH is not totally against a shift to MGCQ.

    “We understand the necessary balance between health and economy. But we must have these safeguards if we want to shift into that direction,” she said.

    She reiterated that the primary safeguard needed to be seen by the health department is the capability of the LGUs to handle a surge in COVID-19 cases.

    “Because in this set-up, we will rely on LGUs to do granular response, like localized lockdowns,” she said.

    “If our local governments already have better surveillance, isolation, quarantine, contact tracing, testing systems, then we can already shift to MGCQ,” she added.

    The League of Provinces of the Philippines supported the NEDA proposal but said the national government should give LGUs to immediately lock down areas if the situation worsens, said LPP president and Marinduque Gov. Presbitero Velasco Jr.

    Under the current set-up, an LGU has to secure approval from IATF-EID or the regional EID before locking down an area.

    Velasco also said public transport, especially the operation of provincial buses, should be fully restored.

    “Kahit po yung mga jeepneys yan, po ang kailangan sa pagpapatakbo ng ekonomiya. (Even the jeepneys, they are needed in moving forward the economy),” Velasco also said.
    But Velasco said LPP is against the NEDA proposal to allow persons aged five to 70 years to go out of their homes. At present, only those aged 15 to 65 are the allowed to go out.

    “Pwede pong ibaba hanggang 12 years pero below that, wag na muna ho at dadami lang ho ang mahahawa. (It can be lowered to 12 years old but below that, not yet, because it will just lead to more infections),” he said.

    On the proposed resumption of face-to-face classes, Velasco said the LPP is opposed to this because children are hard to control and they may contribute to the further spread of the virus.

    On the reopening of cinemas in Metro Manila and other areas under GCQ, Velasco said the LPP is also opposed to this because this will may also contribute to the spread of COVID-

    19. He encouraged the public to watch movies on Netflix and other video-streaming sites.
    Government has deferred the opening of cinemas to March 1. – With Victor Reyes

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