Researchers from the University of the Philippines on Wednesday urged the government to extend the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) in Metro Manila for another two weeks to curb the spread of COVID-19.
READ: PH COVID-19 tally tops 143,000 with 4,444 new cases
Ranjit Rye, a political science professor with the UP-OCTA Research team, made the recommendation because positivity rates were high as was the use of critical care facilities.
Metro Manila has a “very high” positivity rate of 1 percent and over 70 percent occupancy of COVID-19 beds and intensive care units, Rye said.
“The group’s suggestion is to extend the MECQ for another two weeks. We can do this. We can suppress this virus but people will have to make a decision, both at the leadership level and the individual level,” Rye said in a mix of English and Filipino.
The same group on Monday recommended a month-long enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) for Metro Manila---one level tougher than the curent two-week modified ECQ (MECQ)—to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease.
They apparently softened their stand after the government said Tuesday it could not place the capital region and four nearby provinces under a longer lockdown for the sake of the economy.
Although the UP-OCTA Research group has been regularly issuing COVID-19 projections, there is very little information online about its activities and the epidemiological expertise of its members.
In his interview on Dobol B sa News TV, Rye said the effective use of a strict quarantine in Cebu, which had experienced a surge in new infections some weeks ago, had brought cases down, proving that Metro Manila was not “hopeless.”
Earlier, Malacañang said an MECQ extension over Metro Manila and nearby provinces would be “highly unlikely” given the economic toll this would take.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said while strict lockdowns helped prevent the spread of the virus, the government no longer has enough funds to support the cash assistance to vulnerable sectors of society who are not allowed to go to work.
President Rodrigo Duterte placed Metro Manila, Laguna, Cavite, Rizal and Bulacan under MECQ from Aug. 4 to 18 following pleas from the medical community for a “timeout” amid rising COVID-19 cases being admitted to hospitals.
READ: Month-long ECQ pushed
Malacañang said no country in the world has been able to perfectly contain the coronavirus, but said the Philippines is doing fine compared to other countries despite its limited resources.
“Relative to the rest of the world, you know we are in number 22 but we’re not as bad as countries that we consider as role models, including the United States, which now has the highest number of cases and the highest number of deaths,” Roque said in an interview on CNN Philippines.
“Even with countries of our own size like Brazil, which is now number two or three worldwide, we are still doing a lot better,” he said .
Despite the MECQ, the country has recorded consistently high new cases.
“We do the best that we can. Number one, we recognize that there is a continuing transmission. And I’d like to point out that we have actually done a good job of containing it somehow, given that we have the highest population density in Southeast Asia,” Roque added .
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Wednesday said he remains confident that Metro Manila can go back to the less stringent general community quarantine (GCQ) as the MECQ lapses on Aug. 18.
Lorenzana's remarks came after COVID-19 cases saw a single-day record spike of 6,958 new infections on Monday, the same day he said that the NCR is ready to shift back to GCQ due to the gradual decline of new cases of the disease.
"My statement has a caveat. If trends continue that the new cases decrease, because during my interview, (the number of cases was only) 3,000 (on) the day before, from 6,000 (during) the previous days. That was the trend I was referring to," said Lorenzana, also the chairman of the National Task Force on COVID-19.
"But we still have five days to go before the end of MECQ. I may be proven right yet," he added.
Lorenzana earlier said the country cannot continue imposing lockdowns as there is a pressing need to do something to reopen the economy. With PNA
READ: New cases top 3,000-mark amid tighter controls