Palace: Task force to decide on ECQ in 'NCR Plus' on Saturday
A policeman (L) stands guard at the entrance to a neighborhood under strict quarantine measures in Pasay City, suburban Manila, on March 16, 2021, as the number of new daily cases of COVID-19 coronavirus has surged to the highest level in seven months.
AFP/Ted Aljibe

Palace: Task force to decide on ECQ in 'NCR Plus' on Saturday

Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - April 8, 2021 - 8:22pm

MANILA, Philippines — The government's pandemic task force is expected to decide on Saturday the fate of Metro Manila and the four nearby provinces that were placed on lockdown due to soaring COVID-19 infections, Malacañang said.

The capital region, which contributes a third of the Philippine economy, and the provinces of Laguna, Cavite, Bulacan, and Rizal were placed under the strictest Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) last March 29 as the surge in pandemic infections threatened to overwhelm their healthcare system.

Mobility in these areas — now collectively known as National Capital Region (NCR) Plus bubble — has been restricted, forcing several businesses to suspend their operations and the government to spend billions in assistance to affected workers.

The lockdown was supposed to end last April 4 but the government extended it until April 11 to ensure a sustained drop in the number of COVID-19 cases.

"The Inter-Agency Task Force (for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) shall meet on Saturday, April 10, 2021, to discuss the quarantine classification of the National Capital Region plus," presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement issued Thursday.

Earlier this week, Roque said another extension of the ECQ may not be possible because the government no longer has funds for sectors affected by the lockdown.

The government has set aside P23 billion to support affected households and workers but Malacañang has admitted that the amount is not sufficient.

The health department has said the healthcare utilization rate should be down to 60% before it can be regarded as a safe level. 
The overall utilization rate of health facilities in Metro Manila is at 78-80%.

Roque said some Cabinet members met Thursday to tackle pandemic-related updates and measures.

He said officials have agreed to adopt barangay and automated contact tracing and to let local officials at the barangay level handle the prepositioning of goods, including the wellness kits for those who tested positive for COVID-19.

Cabinet members also noted that the application of debit credit payment method of public and private hospitals in identified areas of concern is already in place. The amount involved is about P9.7 billion.

Also discussed during the meeting was the expected delivery of two million doses of COVID-19 vaccines this month.

The bulk of these vaccines or 1.5 million doses will come from Chinese firm Sinovac while 500,000 will come from Russia's Gamaleya.

A total of 922,898,600 vaccine doses have been administered in the Philippines as of Thursday. 

Officials who attended the meeting also reported that the government is already addressing the issue of hazard pay for healthcare workers.

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