BY JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR and IRMA ISIP
PRESIDENTIAL spokesman Harry Roque yesterday said downgrading the quarantine classifications of the National Capital Region (NCR) to the least strict modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) in November is “not an impossibility” given the recent drop in the cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases and the strong health care capacity of the region.
“It is not an impossibility dahil talaga naman pong napababa natin (It is not an impossibility because we have really decrease the number of COVID-19 cases),” Roque said in a briefing following the pronouncement of Metro Manila Council (MMC) chairman Parañaque City Mayor Edwin Olivarez that Metro Manila may see a shift to the MGCQ if the declining infections is sustained.
Metro Manila is under general community quarantine (GCQ) until October 31.
Roque said the change in quarantine classification would depend on the public and their compliance with minimum health protocols.
He stressed that Metro Manila residents should continuously observe the wearing of face masks and face shields, washing of hands, and practicing physical distancing.
Roque, however, said no one can predict when the Philippines would eventually flatten the COVID-19 curve.
He said the important thing is to ensure that the health care system is not overwhelmed and that everyone is cooperating and following the health protocols.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said he will leave it up to local government units (LGUs) to decide what capacity establishments in their localities should operate.
Lopez has proposed the opening of up to 100 percent capacity of industries that are already allowed to operate at 50 percent under the GCQ and even those which are allowed only to operate in MGCQ.
“There is no need to worry about (opening) services like legal, accounting, consultancy, architecture and engineering… they can operate 100 percent… they are safe. The DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) can be authorized by the IATF (Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) to make adjustments,” Lopez told the Laging Handa press conference.
Like Roque, he noted how the number of new COVID-19 cases had been improving significantly versus two weeks ago.
“It’s about time (to open),” said Lopez as he expressed concern over the results of two separate surveys showing rising incidents of hunger and of declining business confidence.
Lopez, however, agreed not to open cinemas and other entertainment facilities which are only allowed under MGCQ.
“What we want to open up to 100 percent are those that are operating at 50 percent at present under GCQ. The last batch to have opened is internet cafes and gyms… their capacity should be the same. But we leave it up to the LGUs to what extent they should operate, including dine-in which are now at 50 percent,” he said.
“Situations in LGUs vary and it is up to the mayors if they will allow these to open from 50 percent to 100 percent in their localities… if they want to open them, or if they will lift the curfew to allow establishments to operate longer hours,” he added.
VACCINES AND MEGAQUARANTINE FACILITIES
Roque said the Philippines continue to monitor the progress the developments of COVID-19 vaccines abroad and welcomed a report about the “very promising results in the tests of Moderna in the United States.
“The President is most hopeful with China, but he has also said that Johnson & Johnson is on track,” he said referring to China’s Sinovac, which is now on phase 3 of clinical trials and the ongoing review of the Johnson and Johnson product.
He said the Philippines is also coordinating with Russian authorities about the Russian Sputnik for the third clinical trial that would both be done in Russia and in the Philippines.
National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 Vince Dizon said a 500-plus bed mega-quarantine facility will be opened next week in Calamba, Laguna which will cater mostly to workers from industrial zones in Laguna, Batangas and Caite who are and would be infected with the virus.
Dizon, during the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) virtual tour of the 600-bed Bagong Nayon Pilipino mega-quarantine facility built with the help of the Razon Group of Companies, said mild and asymptomatic patients from Laguna, Batangas, Cavite and the nearby areas may also use the isolation facility.
He said the government, together with the private sector, needs to put up isolation facilities near the industrial and economic zone to ensure that immediate attention, isolation and treatment is provided to workers especially with the gradual reopening of the economy.
He said apart from ensuring the welfare and immediate isolation of the infected patients, the other workers will be protected from catching the COVID-19 and the operations of industries would be sustained.
NTF Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez Jr., during the Laging Handa public briefing, said the country still needs some 42,000 hospital and isolation beds, especially in Metro Manila, to accommodate more COVID-19 patients.
He said based on their monitoring there are at least 43,000 to 60,000 active COVID-19 cases that need to be isolated. He said in Metro Manila, which has the highest number of infections, there are only about 7,000 beds in isolation facilities and converted hotel rooms.
He also reiterated that they are discouraging home quarantine for mild and asymptomatic patients to avoid the spread of the COVID-19.
Galvez also reiterated the ongoing expansion of the Coordinated efforts to Defeat Epidemic (C.O.D.E.) to cover all local government units down to the barangay levels and even in the workplace, instead of limiting it to areas with high cases of COVID-19 to better inform the public on what to do and the protocols involved in case of infections, the conduct of testing, isolations and contact tracing, among others.