Metro Manila mayors urge single quarantine policy
MANILA, Philippines —The new coronavirus situation varies from city to city in Metro Manila, but the mayors want the national government to impose a single policy on the entire region, according to the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).
The Metro Manila lockdown is expected to end on Friday, and officials are considering whether to extend or ease it.
Earlier, the Metro Manila mayors proposed three options to the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, the temporary body overseeing the Duterte administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic — extension of the lockdown for another two weeks, “general community quarantine,” or “modified community quarantine.”
Under modified community quarantine, the mayors could place barangays with numerous coronavirus infections on lockdown.
MMDA spokesperson Celine Pialago said 10 of the 17 Metro mayors wanted the lockdown to be extended up to the end of May to prevent a second wave of infections.
She said the mayors also wanted one decision for the entire metropolis, the epicenter of the new coronavirus epidemic in the country.
“The Metro Manila mayors’ only request is that whatever the decision of the [task force], there should only be one policy, one set of guidelines, one directive for [Metro Manila] since the [metropolis] must act as one region,” Pialago told an online news briefing on Monday.
For the mayors, she said, one city cannot be on lockdown while nearby cities are only on general community quarantine.
Metro Manila cities are interconnected and residents of one city work in the other cities, she added.
The metropolis has been on lockdown since mid-March to halt the spread of the new coronavirus that causes the severe respiratory disease COVID-19. As the lockdown draws to an end, there are proposals to ease movement and business curbs to resuscitate the region’s economy.
Pialago said balancing the need to protect the people’s health with the need to revive the region’s economy had proved to be a challenge for the mayors.
A group of academics from the University of the Philippines warned of a drastic spike in infections if the lockdown were eased.
Presidential Adviser on Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion had proposed stricter quarantine measures in barangays with numerous coronavirus infections.
In his press briefing on Monday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said controlling the spread of the coronavirus would be “tougher” if the Metro Manila lockdown would be eased.
“In the coming days, I apologize in advance, I will really resort to scare tactics. I will reveal our real capacity and the models which show how many will fall sick if social distancing is not observed,” Roque said.
He said that even if the lockdown in some areas were eased, the rest of the country would still be under community quarantine and that the citizens should not let their guard down.
“Our situation is still critical. We cannot go back to normal like before COVID-19 arrived,” he said.
Roque did not dispute reports that the government missed its target of 8,000 tests for the coronavirus by April 30, but gave an assurance that the state was taking steps to increase its testing capacity. (See related story on this page.)He cited the accreditation of 28 coronavirus testing laboratories, including four “megaswabbing” centers in Bulacan, Manila, Pasay City and Taguig City.
The government aims to conduct 30,000 tests daily by the end of May, combining rapid testing and the polymerase chain reaction system to quickly find cases and isolate them.
“We will eventually upgrade and improve our testing capacity because it is only through testing that we will know where the enemy is,” Roque said.
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