Metro Manila mayors to defer recommendation on quarantine status to IATF

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Metro Manila mayors to defer recommendation on quarantine status to IATF
Health workers administer COVID-19 vaccines to residents while others wait their turn inside the Valenzuela City Astrodome Mega Vaccination Hub on Aug. 10, 2021 as the local government starts their night-shift inoculation to accommodate individuals who has no time to visit during daytime due to work schedules.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 5:56 p.m.) — Metro Manila mayors decided to withhold their recommendation on the next quarantine status and will instead defer the decision to the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, the Metro Manila Development Authority said. 

Speaking to reporters at a press briefing Wednesday afternoon, MMDA chair Benhur Abalos added that while the prohibition on outdoor exercises is set to expire by August 20, mayors have not yet discussed whether or not they will retain the Metro Manila curfew.

Metro Manila was placed under enhanced community quarantine on August 6 until Friday, August 20, in an attempt to curb the more infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus. 

"Cases are still high and hospitals are still full. But Metro Manila is still more protected compared to before," Abalos said in mixed English and Filipino, citing the continuing vaccination efforts in the capital region. 

"We listen first to the positions from the health and economic [sides]...and anyway, the position of the mayors is always recommendatory to the IATF."

The Metro Manila Council's stand, which is informed by health and economy experts at their weekly meetings, runs contrary to that of infectious diseases specialist and IATF adviser Dr. Edsel Salvaña, who claimed that "right now we are still able to get people in [hospitals.]"

Although they are purely recommendatory in nature and thus not binding in any way, the recommendations of the Metro Manila Council have historically been mirrored by the coronavirus task force and later approved by President Rodrigo Duterte at his nightly "talks".

Abalos said that Metro Manila's mayors would stick by a number of commitments they agreed on during their meeting. 

"One, we won't stop vaccinating. Number two, we will make sure that our testing is complete. Three, our isolation facilities, we count how much free space we have every day," he said. 

Abalos also claimed that critical cases have substantially lessened compared to the last enhanced community quarantine hoisted over Metro Manila. 

As of August 16, 10,716,042 total doses have been administered throughout Metro Manila. However, the vaccination programs of the capital region's 17 cities continue to rely on the often unstable vaccine supply handed to them by the IATF and the national government.

"We have to weigh both economic and health factors in our decision. We deem it best to leave the decision to the wisdom and judgement of the IATF,” Abalos said.

“Whatever the decision of the IATF will be, the mayors committed to continue doubling up their vaccination efforts. Stricter implementation of health protocols and comprehensive testing and contact tracing will also be continuously imposed."

'Ayuda' status still unsure moving forward

The MMDA chief, however, added that local chief executives were unsure about the status of the cash aid rollout for poor families affected by the pandemic. 

This comes as the Department of the Interior and Local Government disclosed earlier Wednesday that less than half of the P11.2 billion ayuda funds have been released to poor families in Metro Manila with just one week left for local governments to complete the distribution.

"These ayuda funds are given by the national government...but we don't know what the decision of the IATF. The ayuda is a big issue to them. But they have said they're having difficulties with it right now," he said. 

READ: 40.6% of 'ayuda' for Metro Manila already distributed, DILG says

To recall, the distribution of aid for the poor was delayed from the start as the ECQ was hoisted in Metro Manila on August 6. The aid rollout only began five days later. 

"If it's MECQ, then we're looking at a granular lockdown...In truth, the supply of vaccines is still okay right now."

To date, health authorities have recorded 1.78 million coronavirus infections in the country, 105,151 of whom are still classified as active cases. 








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