Businesses support 2-wk extension of quarantine
Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) - April 7, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — More than 90 percent of some 200 entrepreneurs, business owners and executives of large and medium companies operating in Luzon who participated in an informal survey support the extension of the Luzon-wide quarantine for another two weeks, according to presidential adviser for entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion.

Luzon is under  an enhanced community quarantine to prevent the rapid spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19.  

A two-week extension of the lockdown, which was originally set to be lifted on April 12, can be used to prepare for the implementation of barangay quarantines, Concepcion said.

“This will provide us ample time to develop and establish a more sustainable mitigation system which will follow the guidelines provided by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF),” he said. 

Concepcion said most businessmen who participated in the survey want to avoid a possible relapse and ensure a definitive flattening of the infection curve. 

Despite the negative economic impact, the country has no choice but to ensure that the lockdown would be worthwhile and successful, according to businessmen.

“Thus, we strongly support the government in its plans of extending the Luzon lockdown for another two weeks to avoid a relapse which may result in more damages,” Concepcion said.

For the barangay quarantines, he said the mayors and barangay captains could be empowered to implement a lockdown in their affected areas, while following simple and easy-to- follow guidelines setup by the National Task Force (NTF). 

 “President Duterte was correct to place Luzon under lockdown immediately because that was an emergency situation. After implementing three ‘resets’ or three cycles of a 14-day quarantine at home, we now should consider implementing quarantines at the barangay level, moving up to city or municipality quarantines and provincial quarantines, if many of the municipalities still experience rising number of cases,” Concepcion said.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is also supporting the two-week extension of the enhanced community  quarantine in Luzon, to be followed by gradual lifting, after saying last week it is recommending a gradual lifting of the lockdown when it ends on April 12. 

“I am for extension as I don’t want to see a relapse and lose the gains of quarantine,” Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said.

“We need to see the flattening of the curve, and more health and isolation facilities put in place,” he said. 

If the enchanced community quarantine would be extended, Lopez said businesses that are allowed to operate now would continue to operate. 

After the extension, he said the community quarantine could be gradually lifted to allow other job-generating sectors to operate. 

“When we do decide for lifting, I am for partial gradual lifting. Not total at once,” he said. 

Meanwhile, economists of the University of the Philippines (UP) are in favor of a gradual lifting of the Luzon-wide quarantine in line with the preparedness of the health system to cope with the possible rise in cases. 

In a new policy brief, they said a gradual lifting of the lockdown would buy more time for the health sector to be equipped with the necessary infrastructure, equipment, supplies and staff. 

“To this end, there must be a shift away from pre-pandemic bureaucratic procurement regulations to allow for exigencies as needed under emergencies of this magnitude,” the paper said. 

The paper was authored by UP economists Toby Monsod, Orville Jose Solon, Ma. Socorro Gochoco-Bautista, Emmanuel de Dios, Joseph Capuno, Ma. Joy Abrenica, Cielo Magno, and Renato Reside Jr. 

In easing the prevailing community quarantine, economists said restrictions on mobility can at first be lifted within barangays and then within cities, before being loosened between cities as guided by public health indicators. 

“The first stage could start in the third or fourth week of April, the last stage could come as late as June,” said the UP economists. 

In the process of reviving the economy, private establishments should strictly enforce health protocols as they normalize operations. 

“The revival of economic activity should be phased in at the same rate but much will depend on an adherence to, and enforcement of public health protocols by and among private establishments,” said the brief, noting this entails the provision of protective gear and conduct of random testing for personnel with a high level of contact with people. 

Establishments involved in the supply chains of food and essential goods should be allowed to restore their operations to full capacity.  – With Louella Desiderio and Cheriza Valencia

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