PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has reverted Metro Manila to modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) from Aug. 4 to 18 as coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the country exceeded 100,000.
In a late-night public address on Sunday, Duterte approved the recommendation of his Cabinet to return to a more stringent quarantine status in response to medical front-liners’ call for a “timeout” to prevent the collapse of the country's healthcare system amid the prevailing health crisis.
A least 80 medical associations representing thousands of doctors signed a letter asking the government to revert Manila to enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
Duterte, however, approved his Cabinet’s recommendation to revert to MECQ, the second most stringent quarantine classification.
Aside from Metro Manila, the provinces of Laguna, Rizal, Cavite and Bulacan will also revert to MECQ.
“I have heard the call of different groups from the medical community for a two-week enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Mega Manila. I fully understand why you, health workers, would like to ask for such a timeout. They have been in the frontlines for months and they are exhausted,” he said.
He appealed to healthcare workers to “stretch” their patience and fervor by treating Covid-19 patients, assuring them that he recognizes their efforts.
“‘Wag kayo mawalan ng pag-asa, nakikita at kausap ko ang iba sainyo. Stretch your patience and your fervor. Tiwala kami sa inyong kakayahan,” he added.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the imposition of a stricter quarantine classification is among the Cabinet’s seven-point recommendation to address the concerns of healthcare workers.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed that this seven-point recommendation was approved by the President.
Apart from a more stringent quarantine status, Roque said the President also approved the recommendation to hire additional healthcare workers to augment the current workforce.
This will include the hiring of 10,000 medical professionals and the calling to active duty and enlistment to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), he said.
Roque said healthcare workers would also be provided with additional benefits, such as risk allowance for private sector healthcare workers treating Covid-19 patients, the amount of P10,000 to P15,000 for every healthcare worker that gets sick, life insurance, free accommodation, free transportation, free and frequent testing. The recommendation to issue work and quarantine passes to minimize movement was also approved, he added.
He said Duterte approved the recommendation to direct local government units (LGUs) and the COVID-19 CODE teams to intensify the localized lockdown strategy and the implementation of Oplan Kalinga.
The recommendation to strictly enforce guidelines for minimum health standards while giving 20 million face masks for the poor has also been approved, he added.
He said Duterte also approved the use of reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing as the gold standard in Covid-19 tests.
Last Thursday, Duterte retained the GCQ classification in Metro Manila despite repeated warnings that it could revert to MECQ if the situation worsens.
On Sunday (August 2), health authorities reported 5,032 additional Covid-19 infections, its largest single-day increase on record, pushing the total tally to 103,185.PNA