Whether Luzon will remain under the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or a general community quarantine (GCQ), “life will not be back to normal,” Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Monday.
“There is no way anymore for the country to go back to its normal state before the [COVID-19] pandemic. We are no longer back to normal as we know it,” Roque said.
“The general community quarantine is now the new normal.Unless there is a vaccine, we cannot go back to normal as we know it,” he added.
Under the GCQ, areas in Metro Manila with moderate to low risks of COVID-19 infection may gradually open industries after May 15, 2020 provided that the government’s minimum health standards are imposed and observed.
These include strict physical distancing measures and proper hygiene.
Partial operations of public transportation will also be allowed.
The Department of Health recently said that there will be no return to normal life, such as eating out at restaurants, attending a concert or watching a live sporting event, until at least the end of next year because there will be no coronavirus vaccine available until then.
Meanwhile, Malacañang admitted that the government was unable to meet its goal of conducting 8,000 COVID-19 tests by the end of April.
However, Roque said the government is beefing up testing capacities by establishing more testing centers.
“First, I can’t dispute that we did not meet the goal that by the end of April 30, the DOH can conduct 8,000 tests daily. We were delayed,” he said. “One thing that I can assure you is that we’re taking steps to increase our testing capacity.”
Roque said the country has 28 testing centers so far, including four mega swabbing facilities. He said these would help achieve the target of conducting 30,000 tests daily.
Roque also said that while some parts of Metro Manila could shift to a GCQ after May 15, law enforcers would remain strict in implementing mandatory measures such as wearing of face masks and social distancing.
Senator Cynthia Villar on Monday said she supported the proposal to put parts of Metro Manila under GCQ after May 15.
"I agree that we should start re-opening the economy and begin the implementation of new normal measures in Metro Manila areas that have been successful in keeping their COVID-19 cases under control," Villar said.
The senator added that the prolonged ECQ is already taking its toll on the economy and employment and causing distress among workers and their families.
"We all know that the government cannot provide assistance to everybody affected by this public health emergency. We should now start re-opening the economy with health protocols such as the use of face masks and the practice of social distancing strictly implemented," Villar said.
Earlier, Villar recommended the return of workers in labor-intensive sectors such as construction, manufacturing and agriculture.
As of May 8, 2020, Metro Manila areas with the lowest number of cases per 100,000 population are: Caloocan (14.5), Navotas (14.9), Malabon (15), Valenzuela (17.1), Marikina (28.1), Las Pinas (32.6), Muntinlupa (32.9), Taguig (33.2), and Pateros (33.8)
In the House, Assistant Minority Leader France Castro said the two-month lockdown would amount to nothing unless the government sets in place a comprehensive and intensified medical plan to be implemented when the quarantine is finally lifted.
Castro added that community quarantines alone will not stop the spread of COVID-19. They should be paired with genuine and fast mass testing, systematic contact tracing and sufficient isolation and quarantine facilities so that communities can adequately contain the virus, she added.
"If the administration continues its snail-paced testing, contact tracing, inadequate isolation, and quarantine facilities, the nine weeks of ECQ would have been for nothing and prematurely lifting the ECQ without these vital measures in place, might only make things worse," Castro said.
Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda agreed that “exhaustive” testing and tracing efforts will be necessary, as the country considers a possible shift from ECQ to GCQ.
“We need tools other than ECQ extensions. We need to really be exhaustive with testing and tracing. The national strategy has to shift to one where we leave no stone unturned when it comes to testing and tracing,” he added.