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DOH: Effect of lockdown to be felt in 10-14 days
Give it another 10 to 14 days before we can see if there will indeed be a decline in cases,” DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said at a press briefing yesterday.
AFP/Ted Aljibe

DOH: Effect of lockdown to be felt in 10-14 days

Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) - April 13, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines  —  It will take another 10 to 14 days to see the impact of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) on the daily tally of new COVID-19 cases, according to the Department of Health (DOH).

“Give it another 10 to 14 days before we can see if there will indeed be a decline in cases,” DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said at a press briefing yesterday.

But Vergeire said that during the two-week ECQ, they were able to improve the health care capacity in the National Capital Region by adding 164 ICU beds and 3,000 isolation and ward beds.

Aside from this, they were able to open extension facilities at the Quezon Institute and the National Center for Mental Health, and tap Level 1 hospitals as step facilities for bigger medical centers.

“Looking at this two weeks of ECQ, while the health care utilization rate is still not at safe level, we can see that we are already improving in our capacity and we are improving our response,” she added.

However, the Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19 (HPAAC) said the government may have just wasted the two-week ECQ.

“We re-emphasize that this mobility restriction is but a short-term intervention and yet it seems to have been wasted again,” the group said.

HPAAC claimed the “government still has no clear plans and efforts to fix the root causes, and the nation continues to suffer because of this,” it said.

The group added that while the ECQ may have slowed down the spread of COVID-19, the number of cases is still “perilously high.”

Sought for comment, Vergeire said they disagree with the opinion of HPACC.

“I will have to disagree with HPAAC in saying it has gone to waste because we have implemented measures. Their other recommendations, we are still working on them,” she added.

Downtrend seen

A member of OCTA Research said a downtrend in COVID-19 cases is likely with the implementation of modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) in the National Capital Region (NCR) and nearby areas until the end of the month.

“We are expecting a continued decline (in COVID-19 cases). By next week or the week after that, we might experience a downward trend hopefully,” Guido David said in an interview on GMA 7’s “Unang Hirit.”

The OCTA Research had recommended the extension of ECQ in NCR Plus for another week or an imposition of MECQ for two weeks to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.

From 10,000 average cases per day, the number may go down to 7,000, according to David. Currently, the reproduction number of cases is at 1.24, he said.

A reproduction number below 1 means the reproduction of COVID-19 cases is on a downtrend, David added.

The Philippines yesterday logged 11,378 new COVID-19 cases, pushing the country’s total confirmed cases to 876,225.

This was the fourth straight day the daily tally of new infections was over 10,000.

The DOH also reported 204 additional fatalities, also the fourth straight day that new deaths surpassed 200. As of yesterday, the death toll stood at 15,149, or 1.73 percent of the total cases.

No more arrests

With the easing of quarantine restrictions, the Philippine National Police (PNP) has ordered its personnel to just warn or fine quarantine violators in the NCR Plus bubble instead of arresting them.

PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Ildebrandi Usana said no more quarantine violators would be arrested as NCR Plus bubble transitions into MECQ.

“For police, compassionate enforcement is very clear: efficient dissemination of guidelines to citizens. They will simply be warned and then at most, fined for health violations,” Usana told reporters.

“But there should be no arrest except for other serious crimes they need to face,” he added, referring to offenses such as assaulting a police officer.

Usana said this was ordered by PNP chief Gen. Debold Sinas, citing hurdles being faced by courts in dealing with cases against quarantine violators piling up in their dockets.

He said the PNP should make the public aware of the impact on health of violating quarantine protocols instead of just making arrests.

Since the imposition of ECQ on March 29, the PNP has arrested 3,236 individuals supposedly for violation of Republic Act 11332 or the Law on Reporting of Communicable Diseases. Meanwhile, those who have been warned, fined or punished with community service have reached 37,275.

While 10 percent seating capacity for religious gatherings is allowed under MECQ, the Diocese of Cubao said it would still be up to parish priests to continue online masses considering that COVID-19 cases are still alarmingly high.

“The bishop of Cubao, Most Rev. Honesto Ongtioco, D.D. has left it to the discretion of the parish priests of Cubao whether to already open their parish church in compliance with the directive of the local government or to postpone the opening of the church for face-to-face worship,” the diocese said in a statement.

Parish priests in the diocese are advised to give “utmost consideration on the situation of the spread of infection and its mitigation in the barangays where the parish is located need to be given careful thought.”

Parishes that would opt to open their doors to parishioners should strictly follow minimum health protocols, as well as the 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew for mass goers and volunteers.

PUV capacity stays

Meanwhile, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said there would no changes in the required public transport capacity under MECQ.

“Whatever public transport modes were available during the ECQ, that will remain the same now during the MECQ,” DOTr assistant secretary Goddess Libiran said.

She said only authorized persons outside of residence (APOR) would continue to be allowed to use public transportation.

“Secretary Arthur Tugade also instructed all transportation sectors to make sure that health and safety protocols in all types of public transportation would be strictly enforced,” Libiran said.

Local carriers, for their part, are expected to push through with their flight schedules this month.

The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) said in its latest advisory that air transportation is allowed to operate with limited capacity and under strict health protocols.

The CAB said international inbound passenger capacity at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport would remain limited at 1,500 passengers per day.

Domestic commercial operations, meanwhile, will continue to be subject to restrictions on capacity and frequency of flights that may be imposed by some local government units (LGUs).

“Airlines are advised to communicate with the concerned LGUs having jurisdiction over the airports concerned to ensure proper coordination, specifically on the restrictions and requirements in place in the intended destination,” the CAB said.

Flag carrier Philippine Airlines said it would continue to operate domestic flights between Manila, Cebu and Davao and other regions of the country, subject to restrictions and requirements of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases and concerned LGUs.

“If your flight is not affected by cancellations or travel ban, you can make voluntary changes to your flight following the new No-Worry Flight Fare Brand. All changes shall be made within ticket validity and applicable change fees shall be assessed on the fare conditions of the route,” PAL said.

Cebu Pacific said it would also continue to operate its domestic and international flights as scheduled, but passengers who wish to postpone their flights and those traveling for non-essential reasons may choose to rebook at no additional cost or store the amount in a virtual wallet valid for two years. – Neil Jayson Servallos, Evelyn Macairan, Richmond Mercurio, Helen Flores

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