Legislators, businessmen divided over lockdown extension
Senators on Friday aired differing opinions on whether the government should prolong the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), with Sen. Joel Villanueva saying that extending the lockdown was needed since the country has yet to see the peak of transmission of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian agreed with Villanueva as they pointed out that the government was set to start mass testing for COVID-19 on April 14, the last day of the lockdown.
Drilon said the travel restrictions should be moved until April 30, to help authorities prevent the further spread of the pneumonia-like ailment.
“But during those two weeks, [the government must] ensure food supply and movement of essential goods and services,” Drilon said, adding that the gradual lifting of the lockdown may happen in May.
But Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senators Panfilo Lacson and Francis Tolentino said such a decision should be carefully studied by proper state agencies due to its effects on the economy.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, for his part, said the government should take a cautious and scientific approach toward the coronavirus crisis, which would necessitate an extension of the lockdown over Luzon.
“Look, I’m as invested in getting the economy running as anybody would be. I am the first one who will have a problem in sourcing funds as the chair of the ways and means committee,” Salceda said in a statement late on Thursday.
“But a premature lifting of the ECQ would not be good for the economy. It will not fulfill our public health objectives. And it risks getting us back to square zero in terms of our progress in fighting this disease,” Salceda said.
Salceda said the lockdown should be coupled with mass testing for COVID-19.
On Monday, Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice made a similar proposal though he called for a one -month extension.
“Science, the experience of other countries and common sense would dictate that the Philippine government should extend the enhanced community quarantine for another 30 days,” he said.
But Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate cautioned the administration against going into any extended lockdown blindly.
He said the government should first make an honest report about the “real status” of the pandemic, not only in the National Capital Region but all over the country.
“Was it effective? Because, without mass testing being made for those with symptoms, mild or not, those vulnerable groups like the elderly, those communities with COVID cases, the frontline health workers, etc., we will just be shooting blind or shooting an invisible enemy in the dark,” Zarate said.
Presidential adviser for entrepreneurship Jose Maria Concepcion III has proposed a transition to “selective quarantine” at the barangay level for two more weeks after the lapse of the quarantine.
The businessman also proposed the rekindling of government infrastructure projects, the resumption of Light Rail Transit and Metro Rail Transit operations as part of limited public transport operations and the easing of restrictions on all manufacturing and agricultural activities, alongside the mandatory use of face masks in any public area and a continued ban on mass gatherings.
Concepcion said that in lieu of an extension of the Luzon-wide lockdown, any subsequent quarantine should be targeted to COVID-19 hot spots at the barangay level.
Under the proposed selective quarantine, Concepcion said the Inter-Agency Task Force should eventually come up with the guidelines on what would prompt the barangay captain and the mayor to lock down a particular barangay for a certain number of days. The trigger could be a certain number of confirmed COVID-19 cases for a certain barangay to be considered a hot spot.
But the Foundation for Economic Freedom, a group of economists, called for an end to the Luzon-wide lockdown.
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