Spox. Roque: Return To MECQ ‘Right Direction’

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Malacañang believes that reverting Metro Manila, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal and Bulacan to modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) from August 4 to 18 is a step in the right direction to preventing the collapse of the country’s healthcare system.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque explained that enforcing a more stringent quarantine did not necessarily mean an acceptance that the country’s Covid-19 response is a failure, but recognition that medical front-liners are overworked.

He said that although Covid-19 cases have breached 100,000, he believes that the national government is succeeding in its fight because the mortality rate remains relatively low.

“Habang mababa po ang namamatay, tama po ang ginagawa natin. At tingin ko po, papunta tayo sa tamang direksyon na tayo ay nag MECQ (While the death toll remains low, I believe we’re doing the right thing. I think we’re a heading on a step to the right direction by declaring MECQ),” he said in a virtual Palace briefing on Monday.

He pointed out that under MECQ, healthcare workers will get their much-needed breather while the public and private sector can enhance their test, trace, isolate, and treat strategy as well as localized lockdowns will be strengthened.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the timeout is not really meant to slowdown the rate of Covid-19 infection, but rather give medical front-liners a “breather” and government a chance to restrategize.

“With these two weeks, we will use it well… hindi po natin masasabi (we cannot say) if we can contain the transmission in two weeks. We don’t see that happening actually, pero ang magagawa naman po natin mauumpisahan po natin itong mas pinaigting na response (but we can do is start improving our response),” she said.

Fewer Covid-19 cases expected

University of the Philippines (UP) Political Science Prof. Ranjit Rye said Covid-19 infections are projected to rise to 220,000 this month if Metro Manila remains under general community quarantine (GCQ).

However, cases may be fewer by 50,000 to 70,000 if Metro Manila is under MECQ.

Philippine Medical Association (PMA) President Jose Santiago Jr. welcomed the government’s decision to heed medical front-liners’ call for a timeout.

“Although it’s very short, it’s very long for us since we’re going to take a little time to slowdown the transmission of virus,” Santiago said.

Despite their call for a timeout, Santiago said medical front-liners express full support for the government’s Covid-19 response efforts.

“We are one in your endeavor in this fight against Covid-19. Don’t be misled that we’re not part of the team,” he added.

Don’t panic buy

As the MECQ is expected to take effect on Tuesday (August 4), Roque reminded the public not to engage in panic buying assuring that there will be enough basic supplies for everyone.

“Wala pong dahilan para tayo’y mag panic buying (There’s no reason for us to engage in panic buying),” he said. “Mas marami po talagang stocks ang ating mga supermarkets (Our supermarkets have a lot of stocks).”

Under MECQ, Roque said movements will be limited to accessing essential goods and services while mass gatherings will be prohibited.

Only critical government services and authorized humanitarian activities will be permitted.

Public transportation, motorcycle back riding, domestic flights, and inter-island travel will also be banned. Healthcare workers will be provided with free transportation.

Some industries such as legal and accounting; computer programming; and publishing and printing will only be partially allowed to operate at a maximum 50 on-site capacity.

Barbershops, salons, and other establishments offering personal care; gyms and sports facilities; and entertainment industries will be banned.

Roque said the quarantine passes will have no expiration for the duration of the Covid-19 crisis. However, he said local government units could impose their own quarantine pass requirements.

Meanwhile, Roque said cash aid for low-income families in areas under MECQ will most likely be included in the Bayanihan 2 bill that contains a stimulus package for the country’s recovery from the impact of Covid-19.

“Isasama po siguro ‘yan sa Bayanihan 2 dahil ang unang ayuda na pinamigay natin ay sang-ayon sa batas (This probably be included in Bayanihan 2 because the assistance we are giving is done in accordance with the Constitution),” he said.

As of August 2, the country has 103,185 confirmed Covid-19 cases with 65,557 recoveries and 2,059 deaths. (PNA)

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