GRACE Fr. Hans Mandurulang hears the confession of a parishioner on a pew inside the San Felipe Neri Parish Church in Mandaluyong City at a distance from each other and separated by a plastic sheet. —RICHARD A. REYES
MANILA, Philippines — Whether Metro Manila relaxes more quarantine restrictions on Thursday or stays on restraints depends on how fast local governments in the capital region can respond to pocket outbreaks of the new coronavirus.
Current restrictions under general community quarantine end on Wednesday, with the easing of more curbs under modified general community quarantine expected to follow on Thursday.
Swift local response
But rising infections since the government eased some measures on June 1 and allowed a partial return of public transportation in Metro Manila have cast doubts on the lifting of all but a few restrictions for the penultimate step to a full reopening the economy that could halt the plunge to recession.
A government official, however, said on Sunday that unwinding more quarantine measures in the metropolis was possible if the local governments could quickly respond to virus outbreaks in their communities.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, cochair of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, said in a radio interview that President Duterte would decide soon on the quarantine level for Metro Manila and that the group would give him options.
“We will tell him, ‘Sir, we can [ease], but the [local governments] must act fast if there is a spike or surge [on] this street, community or barangay.’ The action should be swift, like a 14-day community quarantine for starters. So the mayor will really have to take localized action,” Nograles said, explaining the concept of a targeted lockdown. “We are giving two options here. It can be modified [general community quarantine], but the mayor must … really [act] fast, or another general community quarantine to give the mayor time to get used to it,” he said.
The coronavirus management task force is enforcing the second phase of the national response to the pandemic, under which local governments take more responsibility for checking the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the causative virus of the severe respiratory ailment COVID-19.
Parts of Manila and Quezon City have been placed on lockdown in recent days due to pocket outbreaks, but only for three to five days.
Nograles said the task force met with the Metro mayors by teleconferencing on Friday and told them that such brief quarantines would not do.
“You really need to do a 14-day community quarantine,” he said, stressing that the incubation period of the new coronavirus is 14 days.
He said the task force was stepping up coordination with the local governments to improve their response to community outbreaks.
The Department of Health (DOH) has blamed the surge in infections in Metro Manila on the loosening of restrictions on commerce and social life, and on the residents’ failure to observe minimum public health standards.
As of Saturday, Metro Manila had 22,618 of the 54,222 confirmed coronavirus cases in the country. Of the infections in the metropolis, 14,104 were active cases.
The DOH had not released the latest data on the coronavirus situation as of press time Sunday night.
For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.
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