Rationale behind one-month GCQ

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    ‘As long as President Duterte and the IATF will stick to these scientific… response to the pandemic, a great majority of Filipinos will feel that we are doing the right thing, even if the palpable positive results are oh, so slow in coming.’

    PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte used to announce two-week time frames for the country’s quarantine protocols, but this time, he chose to extend it for one month. So the next rebalancing will be on October 1.

    His spokesman, Harry Roque, explained in a press conference that the one-month community quarantine period will help promote stability in the efforts of cities and towns in correctly addressing various challenges that the coronavirus epidemic has brought to the unsuspecting population.

    The government recently extended the duration of the country’s quarantine classification from the usual two weeks to one month. Metro Manila, Bulacan, Batangas, Bacolod City and Tacloban City have been placed under general community quarantine (GCQ) from September 1 to 30. Iligan City is the lone area under the more restrictive modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ). The rest of the country will stay under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), the least restrictive of the quarantine levels, until the end of the month.

    This new classification shows that in Rizal, Quezon, Laguna and Cavite — four provinces that are near the National Capital Region — the government’s effort to quell the virus has been relatively successful, or the health care capability has improved.

    Secretary Roque correctly noted that it would be difficult for local government units to sustain their pandemic response if the quarantine classification changes every two weeks. He stressed that localized and granular lockdowns are more efficient policies for the mayors and governors to take, for these will allow some measure of opening up of the economy, allowing people to work and earn some income, while keeping the virulent pathogen in check.

    The Inter-Agency Task Force has been receptive of various sectors’ suggestions and ideas lately, shedding off some of their previous rigidity, and making life a little easier for Filipinos. The group said new parameters will be used in deciding about the escalation and de-escalation of community quarantine classification. The September CQ classification will hold, it stressed, unless circumstances warrant an escalation or if applications for de-escalation are submitted (by local government units) and approved.

    The IATF said health care utilization rate of dedicated beds and equipment for COVID-19 will be considered to determine any escalation of quarantine levels. For de-escalation, factors include daily attack rate, two-week growth rate and case doubling time, surveillance, contact tracing and isolation efficiency, aside from health care utilization rate and adherence to minimum health standards.

    Included also is the monthly reporting of the national epidemiologic data, health system capacity and socio-economic status. The health care utilization rate will also be reported every two weeks starting October 1 for assessment of possible escalation or risk classification of identified critical areas.

    As long as President Duterte and the IATF will stick to these scientific and professional management of the government’s official response to the pandemic, a great majority of Filipinos will feel that we are doing the right thing, even if the palpable positive results are oh, so slow in coming.