IATF urges support for 'whatever decision would be' on quarantine
This photo taken March 11, 2020 shows a health worker disinfecting Pasig Elementary School.
The STAR/Michael Varcas

IATF urges support for 'whatever decision would be' on quarantine

Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - April 6, 2020 - 9:27pm

MANILA, Philippines — Deciding on whether to lift or extend the Luzon-wide lockdown that would lapse after Holy Week is "very, very difficult," Malacañang said Monday, as it called on the public to support government measures aimed at containing COVID-19.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases would consider several factors before coming up with a recommendation to the president, who would then make the final decision on the lockdown.

"We have to make a decision and we have to make it as soon as possible. But it will not be an easy decision, napakahirap po (it would be very difficult). It’s very, very difficult only because a lot of factors have to be taken into account — the welfare of the people, health, economics, social, security, everything," Nograles said in a televised press briefing.

"So, whatever the decision would be, whether it's today or tomorrow or the following day, let us unite and support that decision," he added.

Duterte placed the entire island of Luzon, home of more than 57 million people, under "enhanced community quarantine" to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, a fast-rising disease that has infected more than one million people worldwide, more than 3,000 of them in the Philippines.

The quarantine started last March 13 and will end on April 13 but some experts and lawmakers are calling for an extension, noting that a premature lifting of the lockdown may invalidate the social distancing measures implemented so far.

Nograles, also IATF spokesman, said officials were expected to discuss the Luzon-wide lockdown on Monday afternoon but details of the meeting were not yet available as of this post.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte would announce his decision on the lockdown "very soon."

Peace adviser Carlito Galvez Jr., the chief implementer of the national policy on COVID-19, has said the lockdown may be extended by 15 days, a measure that has gained the support of some lawmakers and health experts.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has also advised against immediately easing existing quarantine measures.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, who tested positive for COVID-19, has warned that prematurely lifting the enhanced community quarantine could put to waste the efforts intended to combat the disease.

Earlier, the National Economic and Development Authority warned that the COVID-19 crisis may slow economic growth to 4.3% or may even contract the Philippine economy by 0.6% this year if measures are not undertaken to contain it. About 116,000 to 1.8 million jobs in the country may be lost because of the pandemic, according to the agency.

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