Duterte directs COVID-19 task force to act on ECQ call in Mega Manila

Ratziel San Juan - Philstar.com
Duterte directs COVID-19 task force to act on ECQ call in Mega Manila
This screengrab is from the June 30, 2020 press briefing by presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.
PTV, screen grab

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 4:43 p.m.) — Malacañang on Saturday said that President Rodrigo Duterte has directed the Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to immediately act on the medical community's call to revert Mega Manila back to enhanced community quarantine while the country recalibrates its strategies against COVID-19.

“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has heard the concerns of the medical community,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Saturday afternoon statement.

“The Palace considers our skilled, tireless and dedicated healthcare workers as important frontliners in the battle against COVID-19. We are grateful for their immense contributions to heal our people and our nation during these difficult times. Your voices have been heard. We cannot afford to let down our modern heroes. This is our commitment.”

Earlier Saturday, around 40 medical societies addressed the president, COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. and Health Secretary Francisco Duque through an open letter stating that the country's healthcare system is already at its maximum capacity and calling for a timeout through stricter quarantine measures.

“We propose the ECQ be used as a timeout to refine our pandemic control strategies addressing the following urgent conditions or problems: hospital workforce efficiency, failure of case finding and isolation, failure of contact tracing and quarantine, transportation safety, workplace safety, public compliance with self-protection, [and] social amelioration,” read the letter.

RELATED: Medical frontliners advise return to ECQ in Mega Manila until August 15

Lockdown ‘served its purpose’

Roque in an earlier statement said that the present general community quarantine classification over Metro Manila has been a subject of discussion and debate among the Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases.

“The Palace understands the delicate balancing act between public health and the economic health of the nation given that Metro Manila and CALABARZON make up 67% of our economy,” Roque said.

“The strict lockdown in Metro Manila has served its purpose, and we need to intensify other strategies. It is for this reason that the local government units of Metro Manila has been directed to implement a strict localized lockdown/enhanced community quarantine in barangays where 80% of cases are located and the publication of these barangays.”

Roque only said that the comments will be accepted but did not directly state if Mega Manila — which encompasses the National Capital Region, Region III (Central Luzon) and Region IV-A (Calabarzon) — will be placed under ECQ as recommended.

“We welcome comments of various stakeholders and we will include them in future IATF meetings.”

Roque previously said that the capital region could be placed under stricter quarantine if the forecast of the University of the Philippines of 85,000 cases by the end of July is realized.

As of July 31, the Philippines has a COVID-19 caseload of 93,354.

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