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DOH recommends ECQ extension, businesses oppose it, while Palace says it’s an ‘absolute last resort’

By Bim Santos Published Mar 30, 2021 4:12 pm Updated Mar 30, 2021 4:13 pm

The Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases will meet on Saturday to decide whether to extend the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the “NCR Plus” bubble, a move opposed by businesses but recommended by the Department of Health (DOH).

“It’s an absolute last resort,” said Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque during the televised press briefing today, March 30.

Due to the continued growth of COVID-19 infections this month, President Rodrigo Duterte imposed an ECQ from March 29 to April 4 in the “NCR Plus” bubble, which covers Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal. 

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez said they will have to see whether the COVID-19 infection rate remains high by the weekend in deciding how to move forward.

“‘’Pag nagkaroon pa ng steep rise, exponential rise, or hindi siya nag-plateau or bumaba,” Galvez said when asked during the briefing what would move the IATF to recommend an ECQ extension.

“We are also looking at what the experts said na 14 days dapat,” Galvez said.

Two-week trend
The DOH has said that due to last year’s pandemic experience, where it took two weeks to see a dip in the infection rate, they have already recommended an extension of the ECQ.

“One week really is short, we have recommended an extension. But of course, we need to balance it with the economy,” DOH Undersecretary Maria Vergeire said in an ANC interview today. “The ideal would be two weeks so that we will be able to see the effect that we would want.”

Vergeire noted that from July to August last year when cases were surging, it even took over two weeks before the infection rate was eventually reined in. 

“Even with two weeks, we might not see the sudden decline in the number of cases or even the availability of beds,” said Vergeire. “It would take a longer time for us to really see an effect.” 

Vergeire said that with the lag in testing, infections are likely to maintain an uptrend within the week.

“We might see more numbers after this one week because what we are seeing are the numbers two weeks prior to this week, so we are still going to see an accumulation of these numbers for the next two weeks,” said Vergeire.

For now, Vergeire said they are also talking with the National Economic Development Authority for a cost-benefit analysis of an ECQ extension.

Appropriate measures
In a statement released today, the Management Association of the Philippines stated their hope that “there will be no further extensions of ECQ as, after a year of lockdowns, even large businesses are hurting and many smaller ones are on the verge of closing or have closed.”

“We understand that this is contingent on containing the rapid rise in cases. However, we hope the government also takes appropriate measures to avoid further collapse of the economy, such as providing support for businesses to help them mitigate the impact of the pandemic,” the business group said.

The country’s economy sank to its lowest level last year due to the pandemic that wiped out incomes and livelihoods. The country’s economic managers are hoping that from negative 9.5% last year, the Philipppine gross domestic product could bounce back to positive territory this year within the range of 6.5-7.5%.

Thumbnail and banner photo by KJ Rosales