Palace: Return to GCQ 'likely' amid dwindling gov't funds

Despite posting a record high number of new daily COVID-19 cases in the last week, Metro Manila is likely to return to the less strict general community quarantine (GCQ) in a bid to cope with depleting government resources, the Palace said Tuesday.

President Rodrigo Duterte talks to the people after meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Presidential Guest House in Panacan, Davao City on Monday night. Joey Dalumpines/Presidential Photo
Palace spokesman Harry Roque said it would be difficult for the government to extend the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) for another two weeks or a month in Metro Manila because of economic issues.

He said the government has no more funds to give financial aid to the people who would stay inside their homes and not go to work.

New COVID19 inflections surged to 6,958 on Monday and the country posted more than 3,000 new cases a day on other days despite the more stringent MECQ.

READ: Month-long ECQ pushed

In a press briefing, Roque said the government no longer has resources to provide aid to poor families in the National Capital Region and neighboring economic hubs should the strict lockdown be extended.

"I think it will be difficult to retain MECQ because we no longer have resources for aid. What will we do if our countrymen cannot work and we can no longer provide aid?” Roque said.

He insisted that the higher case numbers were the result of intensified testing.

"This means we know where our enemy COVID is," Roque said, adding that it allowed health authorities to properly trace, isolate and treat patients.

READ: MECQ reduces peak power demand by 700 megawatts

On Aug. 4, President Rodrigo Duterte put Metro Mnaila and the provinces of Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite and Rizal under the MECQ in response to an appeal from medical workers for a “time out” as COVID-19 cases threatened to overwhelm hospitals.

But the tighter restrictions were announced even as the government reported a 16.5 percent decline in gross domestic product (GDP), signaling a descent into a recession.

On Tuesday, the Department of Health (DOH) reported 2,987 additional COVID-19 cases, bringing total infections to 139,538, of which, 68,794 are still active.

Active cases refer to patients who are still infected with COVID-19 and are staying either in the hospital or under home quarantine.

Health officials reported 19 new deaths, bringing the cumulative COVID-19 death toll to 2,312.

Recoveries went up by 280, bringing to 68,432 the number of patients who have recovered from COVID-19.

Only 74 of the 99 operational COVID-19 testing labs reported Tuesday’s results.

The top regions with cases in the recent two weeks were NCR (614 or 45 percent), Region 4A (275 or

20 percent) and Region 6 (156 or 11 percent).

The Philippines has been logging at least 3,000 additional cases since July 30, following the easing of quarantine measures and the gradual opening up of the economy.

It is leading among Southeast Asian countries in the number of total and active infections, and has surpassed the total cases in China where the outbreak originated.

READ: New cases top 3,000-mark amid tighter controls

Concerns from medical societies and health workers groups prompted the government to impose stricter quarantine measures in Metro Manila and nearby provinces for two weeks until Aug. 18.

The Department of Health said this “timeout” would be used to recalibrate the country’s COVID-19 response.

Senator Risa Hontiveros said hitting almost 7,000 new cases in one day should serve as a wake up call to the government.

“It is clear that the pandemic has not been contained and the transmission of the coronavirus has not been slowed down,” she said.

While the MECQ has been more than a week, the government does not seem to have changed its strartegy, she added.

Honitivers said any lockdown would not be effective if not coupled with a “health-heavy” response.

“We need to test, trace, treat and isolate more aggressively. We need to make testing available and accessible to at-risk communities and ‘hotspot’ areas. We need to hire more contact tracers and put an

effective system to it. We need to increase the capacity of our hospitals, protect our frontliners, and improve community-based care,” she also said.

“We have the longest lockdown in the world while still having the most number of total and active cases in Southeast Asia. Experts have been pointing out that the increase in our cases is not because we have been testing more but because there is no slowing down of transmission,” she added.

READ: PH posts over 4,000 new COVID-19 cases

In response, Roque said the government was not sleeping on the job, and was doing its utmost to keep the pandemic under control.

He also acknowledged that aside from increased testing, the rise in new cases could also be attributed to community transmission.

Also on Tuesday, the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) president said people’s livelihood should be considered amid calls to implement a month-long enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), the most severe form of community quarantine, in Metro Manila.

PCP president Dr. Mario Panaligan, interviewed on GMA Network’s Unang Hirit, said surviving the pandemic would also be hard for people who will lose their livelihood.

Panaligan said the PCP had some discussions with the business sector about the implementation of quarantine restrictions.

On Monday, researchers from the University of the Philippines recommended a month-long ECQ for Metro Manila to further slow the spread of COVID-19.

The former adviser to the National Task Force Against COVID-19, Dr. Tony Leachon, suggested two weeks of ECQ and another two weeks of MECQ for Metro Manila.

Topics: general community quarantine , COVID-19 , National Task Force Against COVID-19 , Harry Roque , Philippine College of Physicians
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