While some 500,000 displaced workers are optimistic that they will get rehired as some industries reopen under the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ), at least 1 million more remain uncertain about finding jobs, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said Monday.
Lopez said the shift to MECQ is a planned and calibrated move to slowly and carefully open up essential sectors while increasing the capacity of sectors that remained open during the ECQ to 50 percent from 30 percent.
“A big percentage of the economy will remain unopened, especially the high-risk and non-essential sectors to keep the infection rate at bay while doing our very best to lower the cases,” he said Monday.
He said the economy suffered a big setback when the country was, for the second time, put on strict lockdown as new COVID-19 variants infected a good many of the population with new cases hitting more than 12,000 a day.
“But we intend to reverse all of these. The government will continue to provide soft loans to businesses to keep them going in the midst of this pandemic. We will continue to provide assistance as what the Department of Labor is doing for those without jobs. The manufacturing sector has resumed half of their capacities to drive the economy. We expect that the MECQ will encourage more businesses to resume operations,” Lopez said.
He added that the protocols under the MECQ that were enforced prior to the second lockdown will serve as a guide for businesses allowed under MECQ.
The only addition to the existing protocol was outside dining by restaurants capable of operating ‘al fresco.’ Indoor dining remains prohibited and other sections of the malls like cinemas, spas, arcades, salons and other wellness and grooming centers will be closed until the health crisis improves.
Meanwhile, based on the first quarter report of the Department of Trade and Industry’s Fair Trade Enforcement Bureau (FTEB) showed that 94.7 percent of the business firms and establishments in the National Capital Region (NCR) comply with the government mandated minimum health protocols (MHP).
Out of the 1,077 inspected business establishments in the NCR, 791 were found to be compliant to the MHP. Meanwhile, 146 requests for corrective action (RCAs) were issued to non-compliant business establishments; 89 of which complied within prescribed time, 46 were endorsed to local government units (LGUs) for further action and investigation, and 11 are awaiting corrective actions.
The non-conforming establishments were found to be lacking the mandatory contact tracing and/or health declaration forms and thermal scanner upon entry; some of the firm’s personnel were not properly wearing their face masks and face shields while on duty; and several customers were not following at least one-meter physical distancing.
“By protecting our workers, our customers, and ourselves from the virus, we are also protecting and restoring our economy consciously,” said Undersecretary for Consumer Protection Group (CPG) Ruth B. Castelo.
The Philippines logged on Monday 11,378 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 876,225, while the death toll breached the 15,000 mark, the Department of Health (DOH) reported.
The DOH reported 204 new fatalities, bringing the death toll to 15,149, which is 1.73 percent of the total. This is the fourth consecutive day where more than 200 deaths were reported.
This is also the fourth straight day where more than 11,000 cases were reported.
The DOH reported that 267 patients recovered recently, bringing the total recoveries to 703,625, which is 80.3 percent of the total.
Active cases stood at 157,451, which is 18 percent of the total number of cases. Of the active cases, 97 percent were mild; 1.7 percent were asymptomatic; 0.5 percent were critical; 0.6 percent were severe; and 0.32 percent were moderate.
The DOH also reported that, nationwide, 65 percent of the ICU beds were in use; 50 percent of the isolation beds were in use; 52 percent of the ward beds were in use; and 44 percent of the ventilators were in use.
In Metro Manila, 86 percent of the ICU beds were in use; 69 percent of the isolation beds were in use; 57 percent of the ward beds were in use; and 58 percent of the ventilators were in use.
Despite the still high numbers, Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal — collectively known as the National Capital Region Plus — were placed under the less restrictive MECQ from April 12 until April 30.
The country has been seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases due to variants and non-compliance with health protocols, especially in Metro Manila and nearby provinces. Despite this, quarantine protocols were eased this week.
The COVID-19 fatality rate in the National Capital Region (NCR) went up to 2.02 percent as of April 11, from a previous 1.8 percent, said the OCTA Research Group.
The fatality rate was 1.8 percent in October 2020, OCTA said.
Daily fatalities from COVID-19 during the first 11 days of April were already at 41, just a few cases lower than the rate recorded for the whole month of March this year, the DOH said Monday.
The DOH Epidemiology Bureau director Aletheia de Guzman said during an online briefing that the average daily COVID-19 deaths for the entire March were 46.
As of April 4, OCTA also said that the 0 to 17 and 65 plus age groups had higher than average growth rates in new cases at 28 percent and 35 percent, respectively.
The researchers said this means more people in these age groups are getting sick with COVID-19.
On Friday, the Department of Health reported the highest number of new fatalities since the pandemic started at 401.
But a member of OCTA Research Group said they were expecting a downward trend of COVID-19 cases with the implementation of the MECQ in the NCR Plus until April 30.
Dr. Guido David, in an interview on Unang Hirit, said the downward trend in the number of COVID-19 infections may happen in a week or two.
“We are expecting a continuous decrease in COVID-19 cases. By next week or the week after that, we may achieve a downward trend hopefully,” David said.
David said that from 10,000 average cases per day, the number may go down to 7,000.
Currently, David said the reproduction number of cases is at 1.24. A reproduction number below 1 means the reproduction of COVID-19 cases is on a downward trend, he said.
Meanwhile, the DOH disagreed with the assessment of a health care professionals organization that the two-week ECQ in NCR Plus was wasted.
During a press briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the government has implemented measures for the last two weeks, including expanding bed capacity for COVID-19 patients.
“I cannot agree with HPAAC that the ECQ has gone to waste. Because we have implemented measures. We have mobilized our local governments, we have expanded our bed capacity,” Vergeire said in Filipino, referring to the Health Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19.
On Sunday, HPAAC said that “mobility restriction is but a short-term intervention, and yet it seems to have been wasted again.”
The HPAAC issued the statement before Malacañang announced that the NCR Plus will be placed under the less restrictive MECQ from April 12 to 30.
The HPAAC said, “the government still has no clear plans and efforts to fix the root causes, and the nation continues to suffer because of this.”
“This ECQ may have slowed down the spread, but the numbers are still perilously high,” the HPAAC said.
Marikina Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo also expressed concern over the effectiveness of the modified lockdown.
Assuming that the new MECQ “would have the same effect as the one implemented last August,” Quimbo said, “at best, the current levels of 10,000 to 15,000 new daily cases can drop by a maximum of 40 percent to 6,000 to 9,000 new cases per day, which are still very high levels and pose significant risks to the safety of the people.”
In addition, Quimbo said, the IATF is lifting the ECQ at a time when the number of deaths is at a peak, with 401 deaths reported just on April 9.