Trade chief backs gradual lifting of lockdown

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    DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez (photo from PTV-4)

    IF it were up to Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, the government can gradually lift the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) when its 30-day run ends on April 12 so the country’s economy can slowly come back to life.

    Lopez on Wednesday said he backs a gradual lifting of the ECQ so essential businesses can restart their operations.

    During the regular “Laging Handa” public briefing, Lopez said acknowledged that a total lifting of the lockdown and the resumption of all businesses could bring the country back to zero in its health strategies against the deadly COVID-19.

    He recognized, too, that government has yet to flatten the COVID-19 curve, and is unlikely to level it by the middle of this month when the lockdown is set to end.

    Lopez said under a phased or gradual lifting, essential businesses and company operations can resume, while non-essential activities like the holding of concerts and big crowd events will still be prohibited.

    He added social distancing and hygiene protocols will continue to be observed.

    “Even if people return to work, there will be a new culture, a new norm. It is only right to have a phased or gradual lifting, in my opinion. We should not expect that it will all be back, it will be gradual. What is important is we bring back the essential businesses, for the work of people to resume,” he said in Filipino

    Lopez said businesses that can resume will be those that produce essential commodities like food, medical supplies, and hygiene products. Companies that offer other fundamental services such as hardware outlets will also be prioritized.

    Two technical working groups (TWGs) are assessing the lockdown situation and drawing up the parameters to determine if the 30-day ECQ can already be lifted by April 15. President Duterte on March 12 placed Metro Manila under a 30-day community quarantine and extended it to a 30-day enhanced community quarantine on March 16.

    Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, concurrent spokesman of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), said the two TWGs will make the recommendation as to when the ECQ can be lifted.

    Nograles said the TWG headed by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) will come up with the “forward planning, anticipatory planning” which will determine what can be expected as the “new normal” after the lockdown is lifted, while the TWG headed by the Department of Health will set up the parameters on whether the ECQ can be lifted, prolonged or partially lifted.