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ECQ extension in NCR eyed

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Malacañang on Monday said the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the National Capital Region (NCR) could be extended after the May 15 deadline as the number of coronavirus disease (COVID 19) cases continues to rise in Metro Manila.

ECQ extension in NCR eyed
TOUGHER MEASURES. Members of the Manila Police District patrol Ylaya Street in the Divisoria district as the city government enforced a 48-hour lockdown of Tondo and its environs to stem the spread of the coronavirus amid the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon. Norman Cruz

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque made this observation in a televised press briefing, saying science would be the key factor for the President to decide whether to extend the ECQ in Metro Manila or not.

However, Roque said it is still too early to say whether the lockdown should be extended since it is only four days after the general community quarantine (GCQ) was declared in some parts of Luzon.

READ: Duterte teases ‘modified quarantine’ after May 15

“We still have to see any developments. There are still many people being infected,” he said.

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He said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) is still studying how effective the ECQ has been in containing the spread of COVID-19.

Luzon was placed on lockdown from March 15 until April 15 but the ECQ was extended to May 1 to control the spread of COVID-19.

Before the May 1 deadline, Duterte announced another extension of ECQ in high-risk areas, including NCR, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Cebu, and Davao while downgrading the ECQ to GCQ in areas with no reports on COVID 19 infections.

Meanwhile, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said local government units (LGUs) may impose ECQs in smaller areas such as towns or barangays, but need the concurrence of their regional inter-agency task force on COVID-19.

On Monday, the NCR Police Office deployed 294 more policemen to help enforcers implement the ECQ in Metro Manila.

NCRPO chief Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas said the 294 unformed police personnel are members of the National Standby Support Force (NSSF) who are prepared to augment the NCRPO's mobile force battalion.

"These men will assist our deployment of personnel from the District Mobile Force Battalion to different quarantine control points regionwide. Our men have been deployed for 48 days straight already. We need to replace them and give them some rest," Sinas said.

Sinas said more security forces in Metro Manila would be deployed following the government's decision to extend the enhanced community quarantine in the Metro Manila and other high-risk areas until May 15.

READ: DILG upbeat on metro 'graduation' from enhanced quarantine

He added that he plans to meet with the Army and the Philippine National Police's Special Action Force to ask for assistance in the additional deployment of security forces.

“As always, we plead cooperation from the people of the Metro to please stay at home to make our common sacrifices worthwhile,” Sinas said.

On Sunday, 250 SAF police personnel were deployed in Tondo, Manila after Mayor Francisco Domagoso placed the entire District 1 under "hard lockdown."

But former Anakpawis party-list representative Ariel Casilao on Monday criticized the “overkill implementation” of the 48-hour hard lockdown in Tondo, Manila, where 1,000 policemen and 250 PNP SAF commandos were deployed to help carry out stricter lockdown measures.

The 48-hour lockdown in Tondo’s District 1, started Monday at 5 a.m. and will last until 5 a.m. Tuesday. Under the hard lockdown, residents of Tondo 1 District will not be allowed to leave their houses except those who are listed as authorized persons outside residence.

The local government is expected to conduct rapid testing for COVID-19 similar to what was done in Sampaloc during its 48-hour lockdown from April 23 to 25.

READ: ECQ ‘til May 15 in Metro Manila

The measure was imposed by Domagoso to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 and allow for disease surveillance, verification, and rapid risk assessment. Manila’s District I is one of the densely-populated areas in the city and home to many urban poor communities including Baseco, Parola Compound, Isla Puting Bato, Delpan, Vitas, and houses buildings in the former Smokey Mountain dumpsite.

"We completely understand the need for mass testing. The government should have started COVID mass testing weeks ago, but the deployment of 1,200 fully-armed police and special forces to secure Tondo is just too much and overkill," Casilao said.

The ongoing hard lockdown already resulted in the apprehension of more than 100 quarantine violators, mostly poor people who went out of their cramped homes.

Instead of speeding up the distribution of the social amelioration program or SAP, the government went on an arresting spree, Casilao said.

READ: ‘New normal’ sets in under GCQ—Palace

He added that poor people need speedy distribution of relief goods and financial aid.

“We can’t make the people stay inside their respective homes if they are hungry. The hard lockdown in fact is worsening their suffering. It further limits not only their movement but also restrains them from conducting any economic work that could help them at this time when their food stocks already ran out and relief goods from the barangay are lacking,” the lawmaker said.

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