Palace: 'Delicate balancing' of health, economy needed if MECQ will be extended
Members of the Manila Police District set up a checkpoint along an almost empty España Boulevard in Manila as the modified enhanced community quarantine takes effect on August 4, 2020.
The STAR/Miguel de Guzman
Palace: 'Delicate balancing' of health, economy needed if MECQ will be extended
Alexis Romero ( - August 10, 2020 - 5:22pm

MANILA, Philippines — Extending the stricter lockdown in Metro Manila and nearby areas requires a "delicate balancing" of health and the economy, Malacañang said Monday, as it awaits the effect of tighter quarantine measures on the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The government placed the capital region and the provinces of Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite, and Rizal under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) from August 4 to 18 to heed the call of health workers who requested for a "time-out" to improve pandemic response strategies.

Doctors' groups had urged the government to impose the strictest lockdown scenario on four regions in Luzon for two weeks but officials said the government can no longer afford to do so because of its impact on the economy.

However, some experts, including former National Task Force for COVID-19 adviser Tony Leachon, still recommend that the MECQ be prolonged to one month, saying it would flatten the virus curve.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the impact of the imposition of stricter quarantine measures remains to be seen. He said the effects of the implementation of MECQ in Metro Manila and the four provinces would be felt two to three weeks after its enforcement.  

"The incubation period for COVID-19, according to health experts, is 14 days so we just have to wait for that time to ascertain the health impact of the MECQ classification," Roque said in a statement.  

"On the suggestion to make the MECQ effective for one month, this is a decision that has to be made by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases. It entails a delicate balancing of protecting and saving people's health to protecting and saving the economic health of the nation," he added.

The Philippines has logged nearly 130,000 COVID-19 infections, the highest in Southeast Asia. About 60,000 of the cases are active, according to health department data released last Sunday. More than 17,000 cases have been recorded since the MECQ took effect last Aug. 4.

Last week, experts from the University of the Philippines said the number of infected persons would surge to 220,000 by the end of August if quarantine measures in Metro Manila and nearby areas are not tightened.

Since the government decided to impose MECQ in these areas for two weeks, the number of infections would be fewer by as much as 70,000, the experts added.

The pandemic has dragged the Philippines into a recession or two consecutive quarters of economic contraction, the first time in 29 years, as lockdown measures had forced thousands of businesses to close shop.

The country's economy plunged by a record 16.5% in the second quarter, deeper than the 0.7-percent decline in the first three months, but officials are optimistic that a proposed stimulus package will enable worst-hit sectors to recover. 

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