'ECQ Plus?' IATF meets on Saturday, but Roque says extension is 'last resort'
Commuters queue for free bus rides from Philcoa to Cubao in Quezon City on March 30, 2021 due to limited public transportation amid the enhanced community quarantine.
The STAR/Miguel de Guzman

'ECQ Plus?' IATF meets on Saturday, but Roque says extension is 'last resort'

(Philstar.com) - March 30, 2021 - 4:22pm

MANILA, Philippines — The government’s coronavirus task force will meet on Saturday to discuss whether the Enhanced Community Quarantine status of Metro Manila and four nearby provinces will be extended.

The government reverted Metro Manila, Laguna, Rizal, Cavite and Bulacan to ECQ for a week, until April 4, as COVID-19 cases spike. The Department of Health however said this period is too short for effects to be seen.

“Those who are asking if the ECQ will be extended, the [Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases] is thoroughly thinking about it and on Saturday, Black Saturday, we will have a meeting to finalize what will happen,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in Filipino on Tuesday.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the DOH recommended for an extension. “But of course, we need to balance it off with the economy that’s why we need to have enough basis for us to have this extension,” she added in an interview.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, in the same briefing, said the IATF is open to the recommendation to extend the ECQ period. He noted that they will consider whether there would be an “exponential increase” in new COVID-19 cases in deciding whether they will extend the ECQ period.

“We are open to the recommendation of our expert to extend it to 14 days because of what they are saying that the incubation period of the virus is 14 days,” he said partly in Filipino.

Should the ECQ be lifted, Galvez said they will continue observing the developments inside the 'NCR Plus' bubble.

'Absolute last resort'

Roque however said that another week or two of ECQ is “the absolute last resort.”

The Palace spokesperson said they are hoping that the extension of ECQ will not be needed, with the prior week-long general community quarantine of the NCR Plus areas and the ECQ during Holy Week, and the compliance to health protocols.

Vergeire previously said active COVID-19 cases in the country would reach 430,000 by end of April if the strictest quarantine measures are not enforced in the NCR Plus areas.

She however said the government will not conduct mass testing during this ECQ period, but would instead conduct “risk-based testing.” The DOH official explained that local government units are doing active case finding through house-to-house symptoms checks.

The country’s coronavirus caseload reached 741,181 on Tuesday, with 9,296 new cases. Of these, 124,680 are classified as active cases. — Kristine Joy Patag with reports from Gaea Katreena Cabico

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