TWO days into the reimposition of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the “NCR Plus” bubble, the Department of Health yesterday said it has recommended a one-week extension.
President Duterte on Saturday put the National Capital Region and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal under strict quarantine from March 29 to April 4 to stop the surge of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the bubble.
In a television interview, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the DOH has recommended to the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) a full two-week period ECQ because “ideally, ECQ should be at least two weeks so that we can see the decline in the number of cases after the two weeks and the effect on our healthcare utilization rate.”
At the House of Representatives, Vergeire said there might be a need to extend the ECQ for another two weeks to see a significant decline in the number of COVID-19 cases.
“We may see a continuous decline of cases by further extending ECQ for more than two weeks or two more weeks as well as marked improvements in our minimum public health standard adherence and shortening the delays in the detection, testing, contact tracing, isolation, and quarantine,” Vergeire told the House committee on health.
Vergeire made the statement a day after the DOH reported 10,016 new cases in the country, the highest single-day rise since the pandemic began last year. Yesterday, the health department said it recorded 9,296 new infections, excluding data from nine of 179 accredited COVID laboratories.
“During the July and August surge, we have analyzed the figures and saw that cases still peaked 10 days after the lockdown, while the healthcare utilization rate peaked after two weeks of the lockdown. This means it will take a longer time to see the effects,” she explained.
Vergeire said the IATF has yet to give a decision on the matter as it is still waiting proof from the DOH on the necessity of extending the strict lockdown period.
“For the time being, as what we agreed at IATF-EID, we will assess at the end of the week so we will know if we will extend or just have stricter restrictions but the ECQ is lifted,” she said, adding: “We need to balance this with the economy. That’s why we need enough basis to have this extension.”
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the IATF will meet this weekend to discuss the DOH recommendation.
Kapag lalong nag-spike pa, I think we will heed the recommendation of experts to extend the ECQ, kapag may continuous sharp increase at kapag hindi nagkaroon ng pag-plateau (If there is still a spike in COVID cases, I think we will heed the recommendation of experts to extend the ECQ, if there is a continuous sharp increase and if the number of cases do not plateau),” Galvez said.
Areas under the general community quarantine (GCQ) for the month of April are the Cordillera Administrative Region, the provinces of Cagayan, Isabela, and Nueva Vizcaya in the Cagayan Valley region; Batangas in the Southern Tagalog region, Tacloban City in Eastern Visayas, Iligan City in Northern Mindanao, Davao City in the Davao region, and Lanao del Sur in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The rest of the country will be under the modified GCQ. – (G.. NAVAL and W. VIGILIA with R.Africa, Malaya)