Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque Jr on Tuesday, March 23, reiterated that the current additional restriction measures that include the placing of the National Capital Region (NCR) and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal inside a bubble is not a form of lockdown.
“Bukas po ang ekonomiya. When we talk of lockdowns in ECQ and MECQ, sinarado po talaga natin ang ekonomiya para lahat ng tao ay manatili sa kanilang mga tahanan, yun po talaga ang lockdown,” said Secretary Roque in his Tuesday press briefing.
The Palace official further clarified that the additional restriction measures that were put in place since yesterday, March 22 until April 4, 2021, is meant to limit the mobility of people, which has been identified as one of the major reasons for the rise in new COVID-19 cases.
In the said press briefing, National Economic and Development Authority Acting Secretary Karl Chua presented a cost-benefit analysis in case a two-week Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) is again implemented. Secretary Chua’s presentation showed that up to 266,194 new cases and up to 4,738 deaths can be prevented, plus 11,626 news cases can be prevented in a two-week MECQ.
The Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary said that such scenario is good, but then given the same two weeks of MECQ, 58,000 more hungry people will be added to the current number of 3.2 million, and that 128,500 more will be added to the 506,000 unemployed people. Chua added that a two-week MECQ will result to P2.1-B income loss in the NCR and its adjacent areas for each day of the MECQ. Chua said that these, among other factors were taken into consideration when the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) decided on the imposition of the additional restriction measures instead of a lockdown.
Meanwhile, National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF) Chief Implementer and Vaccine Czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr is hoping that with the plan to conduct simultaneous vaccination in the National Vaccination Program, the economy can be opened by the end of the current year.
Secretary Galvez said that this is because there is still no conclusive data now to show when we can expect economic recovery because we have not yet vaccinated all of our intended population. Galvez said that once the intended population is vaccinated as early as the fourth quarter, then the economy can be opened maybe by December this year.
On another matter, Sec. Roque, who is concurrent IATF spokesperson, reiterated that all the decisions that the task force had made were based on data and science. He underscored that the medical experts themselves have said that a big reason for the increase in COVID-19 cases now is also because of the new variants.
“Tanggapin natin o hindi, nag mutate po ang mga virus … sa pamamaraan na mas nakakahawa sila,” Roque remarked. He added that the spike in cases is seen not only in the Philippines but in other parts of the world as well.
Roque underscored that what is important is that we now know how to fight COVID-19 through intensified testing, isolation, treatment, contact tracing, among other measures. “Alam na natin kung paano kumakalat ang kalaban na si COVID-19. Kaya nga pinaigting naman po natin ang ating isolation para maihiwalay ang tinamaan at protektahan ang walang sakit,” said Roque.
He reported that as of March 17, 2021, quarantine facilities in Metro Manila have 6,595 bed capacity, while there are 83 Temporary Treatment and Monitoring Facilities. Also, Roque cited data from Oplan Kalinga that there are currently 76,915 individuals who are currently in isolation facilities.
In terms of testing, NTF Testing Czar Secretary Vivencio Dizon said that there are now 229 laboratories, whereas there was only one laboratory when the pandemic started. Secretary Dizon added that test results come out faster now too, with some laboratories being able to release results in as fast as 24 hours. And from around 3,000 daily tests in April 2020, daily tests now have reached around 50,000.
Roque also stressed that medical management of patients with COVID-19 is better now, which accounts for the continued decline in our case fatality rate. He said that as of March 22 Case Bulletin of the Department of Health, the country’s case fatality rate is at 1.93 percent. ### OPS-PCOO