OCTA: Too early to ease Metro restrictions in March

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    IT may be too early to ease community restrictions in the National Capital Region (NCR) by March, even after the metropolis avoided a post-holiday surge in COVID-19 infections and despite a vaccine rollout expected to start this month, the independent OCTA Research Team said yesterday.

    “We shouldn’t rush it (easing restrictions). Most of the time, the timing of the decision is very critical,” OCTA Research member Dr. Guido David said in a radio interview.

    Metro Manila is under general community quarantine (GCQ) until February 28.

    Last Monday, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said Metro Manila would qualify for more relaxed quarantine restrictions come March based on the prevailing trend in COVID-19 cases.

    David said he cannot blame the government, particularly the economic managers, in wanting to ease restrict1ions in the NCR already because “every day that we are under GCQ, the numbers (economic indicators) continue to go down. However, we need to balance it with health because it is important as well.”

    As of February 1, Metro Manila has a total of 222,215 COVID-19 cases, including 7,218 active cases.

    Meanwhile, Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong announced the city is again off-limits to tourists after the entire Cordillera Administrative Region shifted back to GCQ from modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) effective Monday.

    Under the guidelines of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases disallows (IATF-EID), tourism-related activities in GCQ areas are not allowed.

    Magalong, however, said the Department of Tourism and the IATF can allow exceptions to the prohibition, if local government units requests for such.

    Also yesterday, Magalong said he will stay put as the contact tracing czar if President Duterte tells him not to leave.

    “I cannot refuse the President but I think this won’t reach the level of the President anymore. The President has a lot of problems already,” he said.

    Last Friday, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said “Mayor Magalong’s resignation… has not been accepted.”

    In yesterday’s interview, Magalong said he is due to meet with (Carlito) Galvez and testing czar Vince Dizon this week “and again I would like to reiterate that my resignation is irrevocable… I came up with a pronouncement that I am resigning irrevocably so I have to stick to that word, I stand by my declaration. I failed to perform my job.”

    Magalong said he will continue to perform his job and lead the country’s contact tracing efforts while the issue of his resignation is not yet resolved. – With Victor Reyes and Jocelyn Montemayor