Creation of COVID-free zones urged

THE chairman of the House committee on transportation on Sunday said there is a need to "liberate" certain areas from the Enhanced Community Quarante (ECQ) and adopt a full lockdown in highly dense barangay areas where the rate of coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) infection has not flattened after April 30 deadline set by President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte.

In reiterating his call for the creation of "COVID-free zones," Samar Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento said that some areas especially in cities within the National Capital Region (NCR) are still a challenge wherein approximately 95% of COVID-19 cases are located in Luzon, 2% in Visayas and 3% in Mindanao.

Sarmiento said President Duterte and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) are on the right track in managing the COVID-19 crisis. And he is suggesting the following conditions for "COVID-free zones"/ "liberated zones":

1. The Local Government Unit (LGU) must be certified as COVID-free by the Department of Health and the IATF.

2. Must follow DOH guidelines on Physical Distancing, Temperature Check and asymptomatic workforce.

3. Fifty percent of work force of government, private offices and commercial establishments will only be allowed to report for work subject to Rapid Test for compliance, trial and monitoring purposes.

4. Daily monitoring of cases if any. LGU officials, aided by Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) officers will strictly monitor cases. Report will be on weekly basis and  will be collated by the Office of the Governor then forwarded to the DILG for reporting to the IATF.

5. If consistent zero COVID-19 case, allow increment of 10% per week on the number of work force for government and private establishments.

6. Borders will still be strictly closed like a colony but lives within the allowed jurisdiction goes back to normalcy.

7. Only essential goods can come in and out of these COVID-19 free zones. Sarmiento said that there are 81 Provinces, 145 Cities, 1470 Municipalities nationwide and cases of COVID-19 infection are now pinpointed in specific areas. IATF-EID can now decide which areas should serve as pilot testing for LGUs for us to restart the economy.

He said that of the 17 regions in the Philippines, it is expected that except for the National Capital Region, Central Luzon and some portions of the CALABARZON, the trajectory of COVID-19 infection is already expected to go down and can already be liberated from the ECQ.

Sarmiento said that after the April 30 deadline, it is anticipated that many areas all around the country will have a zero to a very negligible number of corona virus infection. These areas can be clustered as colonies where the ECQ can be lifted.

"Science tells us that the virus has a 14-day incubation period so I would expect that areas which have been compliant with the ECQ would have already contained and managed the virus to stop possible transmissions as we are right now on our almost 45th day of lockdown," Sarmiento said.

On the other hand, Sarmiento said that areas with continously rising number of COVID-19 cases should have a full lockdown for another 15 days or until after the trajectory of the number of cases begins to go down.