âQuarantine to be lifted once things clear upâ
Speaking during a pre-recorded public address on Monday night, Duterte admitted having difficulty explaining his decision to extend the quarantine in areas with high number of COVID infections.
Ace Morandante/Presidential Photo

‘Quarantine to be lifted once things clear up’

Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - May 5, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte has vowed to immediately lift quarantine restrictions “once things start to clear” even 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 night, Duterte admitted having difficulty explaining his decision to extend the quarantine in areas with high number of COVID infections.

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

“I find it hard to explain it to the people. I don’t know whether to cut my throat and explain to you why I keep on extending the quarantine. But let me assure the people that once things begin to clear up, 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 Filipinos.

He urged the public to keep on listening to the government.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the decision on whether to ease quarantine restrictions hinges on the vaccination program, health care capacity and the proportion of people who contract COVID.

“The President has mentioned several times that the solution to the pandemic is the vaccine. We are increasing the number of people who receive the vaccine and we are looking at what we call the attack rate while improving our health care capacity,” Roque said yesterday.

“What the President meant was if many people get vaccinated and if we increase our ICU beds and if we slow the rate of the spread of the virus, we can really reopen the economy again,” he added, referring to stretched capacity in intensive care units.

PGH COVID wards over 90 percent full

The COVID wards at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) are still over 90 percent full, although the cases in the National Capital Region Plus are decreasing, an official said yesterday.

PGH spokesman Jonas del Rosario said the situation at the PGH, a COVID referral hospital, has not changed “unfortunately.”

“In fact, 234 of 250 beds are occupied by COVID-patients. That’s more than 90 percent occupancy,” Del Rosario said in a radio interview.

He said even the ICU and emergency room of PGH are full.

There are also 80 patients on the waiting list at the charity wards.

“The limitations are the oxygen ports. What we are accepting are the severe and critical. Not all beds at the charity ward can have high flow oxygen,” he said.

Metro Manila and the nearby provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal, collectively known as NCR Plus, were placed under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) until May 14.

Although MECQ is more relaxed than the enhanced community quarantine, some businesses in areas 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.

Aside from NCR Plus, other areas under MECQ until May 14 are Abra, Ifugao, Santiago City and Quirino.

Officials previously said the classification of NCR Plus may be relaxed to general community quarantine (GCQ) this month if the number of infections continues to go down.

Areas under GCQ until the end of the month are Apayao, Baguio City, Batangas, Benguet, Cagayan, Davao City, Iligan City, Isabela, Kalinga, Lanao del Sur, Mountain Province, Nueva Vizcaya, Puerto Princesa, Quezon and Tacloban.

The rest of the country is under the most lenient modified general community quarantine, wherein all types of businesses can operate.

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

During the same public address, Duterte reiterated the Philippines is “doing good” in combating the virus, despite the continuous rise in the number of infections.

He urged the public to 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 is the hero there,” Duterte said.

Some senators and health workers called for Duque’s resignation, accusing him of mishandling the pandemic. – Sheila Crisostomo

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