No decision yet, but 'selective' quarantine in parts of Philippines a 'probability'

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
No decision yet, but 'selective' quarantine in parts of Philippines a 'probability'
Police man a checkpoint at Balintawak market in Quezon City on April 12, 2020 after reports of overcrowding there the day before.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — A "selective" quarantine in Luzon is "probable" but it is too early to say whether it would be implemented because the government has to consider its impact on public health and security, Malacañang said Monday.

Last Sunday, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., the chief implementer of the national policy on coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), said the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine may be eased into a "selective" quarantine if the Philippines sees an increase in health capacity and recovery rate and a decrease in fatality rate.

He said the selective quarantine may also be adopted if the Luzon-wide quarantine, which started last March 17 and would end on April 30, is implemented properly and massive tests are conducted.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said there is a need to show accurately how existing mechanisms operate and how they would benefit the country's health, safety, security, economic and social dimensions.

"When Secretary Galvez said that, that is probable, but is it final? Not yet because ultimately we have to come up with a game plan what happens after April 30 and ultimately, we need the approval of President Duterte," Nograles said at a press briefing.

Nograles, also the spokesman of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, said he and Galvez cannot preempt the decision of agencies handling the COVID-19 crisis.

"The IATF is not just Secretary Galvez and myself, there are plenty other cabinet secretaries in the IATF and other high-ranking officials all discussing the probable," he said.

Some business groups have called for the gradual lifting of the Luzon-wide quarantine, which has affected more than 57 million residents, and has forced thousands of businesses to suspend operations.

The National Economic and Development Authority has estimated that the COVID-19 pandemic may slow economic growth to 4.3% or may even contract the Philippine economy by 0.6% this year if mitigation measures are not adopted. 
About 116,000 to 1.8 million jobs in the Philippines may be lost because of the disease, which has so far infected more than 4,000 people in the Philippines.

Nograles said he agreed with Galvez that the lockdown played a significant role in preventing the spread of the disease.

"If President Duterte did not declare a lockdown, it would have been much, much worse for the Philippines. Take a look at the other countries, they are richer and look at their numbers," he said.

'We must last'

Asked how long the government's resources would last, Nograles said the government is undertaking measures to ensure that the country would withstand the pandemic.

"We are doing something for us to flatten the curve so we won't overwhelm our healthcare facilities, our doctors, our frontliners, our hospital beds, our ventilators. All of our health equipment and facilities are not overwhelmed with the number of COVID-19 cases. That's our strategy and that’s a worldwide strategy," he said.
"We must last, that's the point. We have to manage this in a way that we have to last, period. More recoveries, less deaths... you know, we will really find ways. We have to make ourselves last... They have to find a vaccine otherwise, you know, we’ll take it one step at a time....The world must find a vaccine – and I believe they will."

Nograles said the government expects more tests to be done in the coming days.
"If we conduct more tests, we will see more positive cases. Our priority, of course, is to test more, to identify more, so we can take care of them faster. The more na identify positive cases, the more we can isolate, the more we can provide them with proper health care," he said.

Nograles also reiterated that selling government assets to support COVID-19 response measures is the administration's last resort.

"The the last option. If there’s no other way. But we will find a way," he added.




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