Duterte: Quarantine will be lifted 'once things begin to clear'
Elite policemen patrol a market while people shop during a government imposed enhanced quarantine as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 novel coronavirus in Manila on April 21, 2020.
AFP/Maria Tan

Duterte: Quarantine will be lifted 'once things begin to clear'

Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - May 4, 2021 - 7:31pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to immediately lift quarantine restrictions "once things begin to clear" as he assured the public that efforts are being done to address hunger caused by prolonged lockdowns.

Speaking during a pre-recorded public address on Monday, Duterte admitted having difficulties explaining his decision to extend the quarantine in areas with high number of COVID-19 infections

"Let's talk about the sentiments of Filipinos. One is the hunger. We are trying to do everything we can within the limited resources of government," Duterte said.

"Ako dito ako mahirapan ako mag-ano sa tao (I find it hard to explain it to the people). I don't know whether to cut my throat and explain to you that I keep on extending the quarantine...But let me assure the people that once things begin to clear, we will lift the quarantine immediately without delay," he added.

Duterte thanked doctors who advise the government on how to handle the pandemic, which has so far infected more than one million people in the Philippines. he also urged the public to "continue to listen to the government."

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the decision on whether to ease quarantine restrictions hinges on the vaccination program, healthcare capacity, and the proportion of people who catch COVID-19.

"The president has mentioned several times that the solution to the pandemic is the vaccine. We are increasing the number of people who received the vaccine and we are looking at what we call the attack rate while improving our healthcare capacity," Roque said at a press briefing yesterday.

"What the president meant was if many people get vaccinated and if we increase our ICU (intensive care unit) beds and if we slow the rate of the spread of the virus, we can really reopen the economy again," he added.
Metro Manila and the nearby provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal — collectively known as National Capital Region (NCR) Plus — were placed under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) until May 14 to address the surge in COVID-19 infections.

While MECQ is more relaxed than the enhanced community quarantine, some businesses in areas that are under this classification remain closed and non-essential movements are still restricted. Gatherings are allowed but only up to ten percent of the venue capacity can be occupied. The restrictions have affected more than 20 million people in NCR Plus, whose areas account for about half of the Philippine economic output.

Aside from NCR Plus, other areas that will be under MECQ until May 14 are Abra, Ifugao, Santiago City (Isabela), and Quirino.

Officials previously said the classification of NCR Plus may be relaxed to general community quarantine (GCQ) this month if the COVID-19 reproduction number continues to go down and there are more intensive care unit beds dedicated to COVID-19 patients.

While health protocols are still being enforced in GCQ areas, quarantine measures are more relaxed, including allowing about half of industries to resume operations and up to 30% of venues to be filled up during gatherings.

Areas that will be under GCQ until the end of the month are Apayao, Baguio City, Benguet, Kalinga, Mountain Province, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Batangas, Quezon Puerto Princesa City, Tacloban City, Iligan City, Davao City, and Lanao del Sur. The rest of the Philippines is under the most lenient modified general community quarantine, where virtually all types of businesses can operate.

On Monday, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua said Metro Manila should shift to GCQ this month, noting that the capital region accounts for 42.6% of the services sector and 20.8% of the industrial sector.

Roque had said the government would also consider the plight of people who are going hungry or dying of causes not related to COVID-19.

A recent survey conducted by the science department's Food and Nutrition Research Institute suggested that 62.1% of Filipino households have experienced moderate or severe food insecurity.

Food insecurity was highest between April and May last year during the enforcement of the ECQ, according to the poll, which was conducted from November 3 to December and covered 5,717 households.

During the same public address, Duterte reiterated that the Philippines is "doing good" in combating COVID-19 despite the continuous rise in the number of infections.

He urged the public to also look at the number of recoveries, not just the total number of cases.

"You might say that I am scaring you. But compared with other countries, which is not really the time to make comparisons, but we’re doing good in the fight against COVID and (Health) Secretary (Francisco) Duque (III) is the hero there," the president said.

Some senators and health workers have called for Duque's resignation, accusing him of mishandling the pandemic but the health chief has denied the allegation.

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