THE Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) will decide on calls to extend the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) up to a whole month, Malacañang said Monday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark after former National Task Force Against COVID-19 special adviser Dr. Tony Leachon said an extended MECQ is necessary to flatten the country’s coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) epidemic curve.
Leachon said a month-long MECQ would also allow the country to bridge its healthcare gap.
Roque, however, reiterated that the IATF-EID will have to consider not only people’s health, but also the economy which officially entered a recession with a 16.5 percent economic plunge in the second quarter this year due to lockdowns.
“It entails a delicate balancing of protecting and saving people's health to protecting and saving the economic health of the nation,” he said in a statement.
He recognized that the effects of the MECQ in Metro Manila and nearby provinces would be felt two to three weeks after its enforcement.
Since the incubation period for COVID-19 is 14 days, Roque said it is best to wait for that time to ascertain the health impact of the MECQ classification.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Aug. 2 approved the recommendation to revert Metro Manila, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal and Bulacan to stricter MECQ from Aug. 4 to 18 after medical front-liners called for a timeout to allow the government to recalibrate its COVID-19 response efforts.
Last week, Roque said the Philippine economy will not be able to withstand the impact of a longer MECQ in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
“Tatapatin ko po kayo, hindi na po kaya ng ekonomiya ang mas matagalan pang lockdown (I will be blunt, the economy cannot withstand a longer lockdown),” he said in a virtual Palace briefing on August 4.
While an ECQ might be the most ideal solution to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19, Roque said the national government is still looking for where to source funds for another tranche of cash assistance for low-income families.
Health Undersecretary and spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire, in the same press briefing, said the MECQ did not aim to flatten the curve, but allow the healthcare system to take a "breather."
University of the Philippines Political Science Prof. Ranjit Rye earlier said COVID-19 infections are projected to rise to 220,000 this month if Metro Manila remains under general community quarantine (GCQ).
However, he said cases may be fewer by 50,000 to 70,000 if Metro Manila is under MECQ. PNA