Duterte options: Longer GCQ or back to stricter quarantine

By: Leila B. Salaverria - Inquirer.net | June 14,2020 - 11:17 AM

Extending the general community quarantine (GCQ) in Metro Manila and Cebu City or placing these cities on modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) are among the options that President Duterte is considering before he makes an announcement on the matter on Monday, his spokesperson said.

“The President would consider … how fast the number of cases rose or the doubling rate and our capacity to provide critical care. All of that are part of the data being readied for the decision of the President,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a phone interview on Saturday.

Roque said MECQ was the highest level of restriction among the options being considered by the President—the others being the general community quarantine (GCQ) currently in effect and the modified general community quarantine (MGCQ).

Under MGCQ, public gatherings would be allowed up to 50 percent of a venue’s capacity, and more public transportation would be permitted.

“But the numbers of Metro Manila and Cebu don’t seem to be right for this kind of opening,” Roque said in an earlier interview with dzBB.

607 new cases

Metro Manila and Cebu were placed under GCQ starting June 1. This allowed more businesses to reopen and employees to return to work, which many tried to do but with difficulty, because of the lack of public transportation.

Before that, Mr. Duterte declared a lockdown on Luzon on March 16, as COVID-19 cases began to rise. Many parts of the country also went under lockdown.

The lockdown was eased to MECQ in Metro Manila and Cebu City on May 16 until May 31. This level allowed, among other features, malls and shops to reopen at 50-percent capacity but still prohibited all public transportation.

On Saturday, the Department of Health (DOH) reported 607 new cases, pushing the national caseload to 25,392.

Of the new cases, 504 were “fresh” cases, pertaining to patients who tested positive within the last three days. The National Capital Region (NCR) accounted for the most number of such cases at 246.

There were 22 new deaths, bringing the total fatalities to 1,074, and 252 new recoveries, bringing the total recoveries to 5,706.

This is the first time since May 27 that the NCR’s fresh cases breached the 200 mark, two days before the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) is set to make its recommendation to Mr. Duterte.

‘Backlog’

In Cebu City, the number of cases continued to rise, with the local health office recording 167 new infections on Friday.

Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella said “it sounds like we [in Cebu City] have many cases but the real situation is there has been a backlog [in reporting].”

As of June 12, Cebu City had 3,361 COVID-19 cases with 1,710 recoveries, and 33 deaths, or a mortality rate of about 1.1 percent.

There were 348 cases in neighboring Mandaue City and 350 in Cebu province, including 18 overseas Filipino workers who returned to Cebu and seven health workers who had tested positive for the virus. There were 169 cases in Lapu-Lapu City on Mactan Island.

For Labella, the low death rate and the rising number of recoveries indicate that his city is doing well in its fight against COVID-19.

The mayor said he wanted Cebu City to remain under GCQ after June 15 to allow the reopening of more businesses.

Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia also cited the need to reopen business but favored MGCQ.

Malacañang welcomes any suggestions from the mayors, Roque said.

Prudent move

For infectious disease expert Dr. Rontgene Solante, it would be prudent not to loosen quarantine measures in the NCR and instead extend GCQ by another two weeks.

Solante, former president of the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, said that with a GCQ extension, the government could determine how that status is affecting the trend of new cases, especially since the virus’ incubation period is up to 14 days.

Should the President decide on MGCQ, he said, “the health-care system should be strengthened. There should be enough beds, ventilators and medicines allocated.”

DOH data showed that as of Thursday, 332 of the nearly 2,000 mechanical ventilators nationwide were in use.

A little over half of the 6,160 isolation beds and almost a third of the more than 1,200 intensive care beds are occupied.

Nationwide, there are over 51,000 beds in quarantines managed by local governments, while close to 3,200 are overseen by the national government. —WITH REPORTS FROM JOVIC YEE, JOEY GABIETA AND ADOR VINCENT MAYOL

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