THE Philippine economy will not be able to withstand the impact of a longer modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) in Mega Manila, Malacañang said Tuesday.
Mega Manila, which comprises Metro Manila, Laguna, Cavite, Rizal, and Bulacan, was placed anew under MECQ until August 18 to prevent the collapse of the country’s healthcare system as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases exceeded 100,000.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque dismissed suggestions to extend the MECQ until the end of the month saying the decision for two-week MECQ was reached to reflect the “delicate balance” between health and economy.
“Tatapatin ko po kayo, hindi na po kaya ng ekonomiya ang mas matagalan pang lockdown,” he said in a virtual Palace briefing.
According to Roque, the decision to place Mega Manila under MECQ instead of medical frontliners’ request for enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), the most stringent type of quarantine, is also because of the impact on an ECQ to the economy
MECQ was imposed as a “compromise” to the demand of healthcare workers for a timeout to beef up the country’s healthcare system, he added.
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.
He said the government is still waiting for Congress to pass the “Bayanihan 2” bill that contains a stimulus package for the country’s recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Senate last week passed the Bayanihan 2 bill while the House of Representatives has yet to pass their version of the measure.
“Ninanais naman natin na sabihin na ang ECQ talaga ang solusyon…pero kung wala na pong ayuda, mamamatay naman po sa gutom ang mamamayan kung hindi sila mamatay dahil sa Covid. So napakahirap po ng ganitong desisyon,” he said.
Dr. Antonio Dans, spokesperson for the Healthcare Professions Alliance Against COVID-19 earlier said that the use of rapid antibody tests could be the reason for an increase in COVID-19 cases in the country since they are not accurate.
Roque, however, defended the use of antibody test kits saying they serve their purpose in testing individuals at a larger scale.
“Kahit kailan, hindi po sapat ang PCR for a population of 110 [million],”he said.
Roque explained that local governments find rapid antibody tests useful as an “initial screening” for potential COVID-19 positive patients.
Rapid antibody testing detects the presence of antibodies in an individual’s blood or serum even before symptoms of the COVID-19 symptoms start to show.
On the other hand, reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing remains to be the “gold standard” for COVID-19 testing. All rapid antibody tests are subject to confirmatory RT-PCR testing.
Other countries like Vietnam, South Korea and Japan, he said, also conduct rapid antibody testing.
“Lahat po ng magagamit natin, gagamitin natin,” he said.
He also noted that RT-PCR testing could be used for all patients once pooled testing, which combines samples from several people and tests them together instead of running them individually, is approved by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).
“Siguro po pag puwede na ang pooled testing, we can confidently say lahat na po ay PCR testing,” he said. PNA