Modified lockdown proposed

A lawmaker is proposing a modified enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) especially in areas that are considered free from coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Samar Rep. Edgar Sarmiento, chairman of the House Committee on Transportation, said economic activities should be allowed in COVID-free zones in order not to totally paralyze the country’s economy.

Because of the increasing number of people infected with COVID-19, government officials are considering the extension of ECQ in Luzon.

Sarmiento is proposing to the national government to allow economic activities in the areas that are considered free from the dreaded virus to slowly flourish back to life while ensuring that the contagion is contained and isolated only in cities and municipalities that are still considered as hotspots.

"This modified system basically means that we will have areas that would remain under ECQ but we will also have areas that will be allowed to open businesses and allow their residents to go back to their normal lives. These areas will maintain a closed border and continue to observe social distancing as extra precaution," Sarmiento said.

"It is intended to enable people to continue to support our economy and provide food to the affected areas without jeopardizing our campaign to eliminate the virus. We will stop COVID-19 in the Philippines but we have to make sure we don’t stop our people’s source of livelihood for it will be a greater problem in the future,"  he added.

Sarmiento noted that based on the monitoring of the Department of Health, there are only 105 out of 771 cities and municipalities in Luzon that has COVID cases. Of the 40 provinces in the entire Luzon including the National Capital Region, only 23 has COVID cases, many of which only have one or two cases.

"We continue to see an upward trend in areas that are hardest hit by the COVID especially the NCR but I am expecting a downward pattern in less dense areas that have managed to identify and immediately isolate those who are infected. I am hoping and praying to our Lord Almighty that the number of deaths will remain low and  our people can start going back to their normal lives," Sarmiento said.

In the event that the national government decides to extend the ECQ after the April 14 deadline, Sarmiento recommended the adoption of a modified ECQ which would allow "non-COVID zones" to open all commercial activities including public transportation but still maintain a closed border.

Sarmiento cited the cases of the provinces of Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte and Kalinga Apayao as possible "COVID-free zones" because they have no recorded COVID cases until now.

In order to ensure that these "COVID-Free Zones" will remain free from any possible infection, their borders should remain closed from people coming from areas with COVID cases.