President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has approved the extension of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the National Capital Region (NCR) and other high-risk areas up to May 15, 2020 based on the recommendations of the Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).
The IATF’s recommendations were relayed to the public by Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque Jr. at a media briefing in Malacanang, where he was joined by Chief Implementer of the National Task Force on COVID-19 Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr., Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año, Department of Health Spokesperson and Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, and National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Acting Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua, via Skype.
The Palace spokesman said that the decision on the ECQ was based on several factors. “Ang desisyon na manatili ang ECQ sa mga areas gaya ng Metro Manila ay naka base po doon sa bilis ng pagkalat [ng sakit] at doon sa abilidad ng ating health sector na magbigay ng serbisyong medikal para doon sa mga magkakasakit,” explained Roque.
This was confirmed by Secretary Galvez who said that, “Main consideration po talaga yung tinatawag natin na new cases at the same time yung ano natin, yung rate of death, at saka yung tinatawag nating capacity ng mga ospital natin to cope with the increasing cases of COVID.”
With the approved IATF recommendation, the ECQ will be maintained up to May 15 in NCR and other high-risk areas including provinces in Region III: Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Zambales, and Pampanga; provinces in Region IV-A: Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal and Quezon; Region IV-B: Oriental Mindoro and Occidental Mindoro; Region V: Albay and Catanduanes; Baguio City and Benguet in CAR; and Pangasinan in Region I.
In the Visayas, the island of Panay (Antique, Iloilo, Aklan and Capiz), Cebu province and Cebu City will still be on ECQ, subject to further evaluation. In Mindanao, Davao del Norte and Davao City are considered high-risk and will still be in ECQ, while Davao de Oro (formerly Compostela Valley) is currently recommended for continued ECQ, but is subject to re-evaluation.
Under the ECQ, protocols and restrictions in the movement of people are in place, there are no public transportation, businesses are closed except for essential services like healthcare facilities, food establishments, financial institutions, among others.
While under the GCQ or General Community Quarantine, certain sectors will be allowed to operate and have their employees go out and work in phases, there will be restricted opening of malls covering non-leisure shops, some public transport will be allowed to operate at reduced capacities, and priority and essential construction projects will resume.
However, GCQ mandates that those who are 0 to 20 years old, those who are 60 years old and above, and those who are at high risk of getting the disease will have to remain at home.
“Bagama’t napakahirap po talaga ng desisyon na ginawa ng ating Presidente, naiintindihan po namin naiinip na kayo, gaya ng naiinip na rin sya, pero wala pong alternatibo. Kinakailangan ipagpatuloy ang ECQ, dahil uulitin ko po ito lang po ang tanging pamamaraan para mapabagal ang pagkalat ng sakit na COVID-19, habang pinaghahandaan po natin ang paggamot sa mga posibleng magkasakit dito,” Roque stressed.
On why the extension of the ECQ is good for 15 days, Usec Vergeire explained that it has been previously agreed upon since the start of the ECQ implementation that two weeks is given for decision makers to evaluate whether to extend or end the ECQ. She added that these two weeks is allotted for the country’s health care system to prepare the capacity of critical care facilities and reach a high testing capacity to be ready in case of high number of cases.
Secretary Año added that the 15-day extension is aligned with the incubation period of the virus and the required 14-day quarantine period, which helps in easily tracking the spread of the disease. ### OPS-PCOO