Government still prefers localized lockdowns â Palace
Residents queue up at a Covid-19 coronavirus vaccination centre in Mandaluyong City, suburban Manila on July 15, 2021.
AFP/Ted Aljibe

Government still prefers localized lockdowns — Palace

Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - July 19, 2021 - 8:05pm

MANILA, Philippines — Despite the entry of the more infectious COVID-19 Delta variant into the Philippines, the government still prefers to enforce localized lockdowns since a wide-reaching quarantine may disrupt livelihoods and result in higher hunger incidence, Malacañang said Monday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said while there is a need to limit the spread of COVID-19, the government does not want the number of hungry people to rise.

"We are aiming to promote total health," Roque said at a press briefing.

"Our strategy is as much as possible, we will have localized granular lockdowns so that the livelihood of our countrymen will continue. The appeal of the President is to wear face masks, wash your hands frequently, observe physical distancing, and to get vaccinated if possible," he added.

The health department vowed to review the COVID-19 data everyday to determine if there is a need for tighter quarantine measures.

"We said we would impose a granular lockdown for now but everyday, we would assess to determine when to escalate the restriction," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.

Officials were scheduled to meet with experts yesterday to discuss what precautionary measures should be undertaken to contain the spread of the Delta variant.

Lockdowns approved

Roque said the president acted quickly and approved the placing of the province of Iloilo, Iloilo City, Cagayan de Oro, and Gingoog City under the strictest enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) after the detection of the local cases of the Delta variant. He said lockdowns won't be imposed on areas without any reason.

"The president relies on the expert opinions of the experts from DOH (Department of Health) and the NTF (National Task Force Against COVID-19) and will not hesitate, in fact, to increase the community quarantines if there are grounds to do so," the Palace spokesman said.

"What the President is asking from local governments is their cooperation. We won't impose an ECQ without any reason... Being placed under ECQ is difficult... but when we have to resort to it under the goal of promoting total health," he added.

Vergeire said the placing of Iloilo City and Iloilo province under ECQ was recommended even before the Delta variant was detected because of the "continuing trend of increase in two-week growth rate and average daily attack rate."

"Aside from that, their health care utilization rate and their ICU (intensive care unit) utilization remains to be at high-risk and nearing critical risk. And we have implemented MECQ for the past four weeks already but we have not seen an improvement in their parameters," she said.

Vergeire said the latest genome sequencing results showed that many cases of the Alpha and Beta variants were detected in Iloilo City and Iloilo province, which was also a factor for the escalation in their quarantine classification.

Treatment czar and Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega said efforts are underway to increase the capacity of hospitals, especially their intensive care units, ventilators, high-flow oxygen and medicines needed by severe and critical patients.

"So in totality, we are increasing the staffing in hospitals. We can be assured of the deployment coming from other agencies; and second, the emergency hiring from the Department of Health," Vega said.

Movement restrictions

Vergeire said the DOH has not made a recommendation on whether to continue allowing children aged five and above to go outdoors.

"We have a meeting with our experts this afternoon so that we can determine if we are going to continue allowing our children or we will recommend that this be temporarily suspended, but for now we have not made a recommendation," she added.

Asked whether the detection of the Delta variant would affect the activities of President Duterte, Roque said the movement of the 76-year-old leader has been limited because of the pandemic.

"But perhaps it depends on where the President will go and the importance of the affairs he will witness. But for now, the patterns of movement of the President have been consistent. Unless there is an extraordinary affair, he would remain in Malago (Clubhouse in Malacañang Park) or here in the city of Davao," he added.

Duterte received his second dose of Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine last July 12.

At the same press briefing, Roque congratulated the cities of Pasig and Las Piñas for having achieved 100 percent vaccination of its eligible senior population.

Pasig City has inoculated all 45,158 of its eligible senior population, while all of Las Piñas City’s 38,615 eligible seniors have been given a first dose of the pandemic shot.

As of July 18, more than 15 million vaccine doses have been administered nationwide while more than 4.7 million Filipinos have completed two doses of their COVID-19 vaccine. 

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