No recommendation from Metro Manila mayors on quarantine
MANILA, Philippines — With the number of new coronavirus cases rising, the government is unlikely to loosen quarantine restrictions in Metro Manila on Monday and may even reimpose stricter curbs on movement and social life for the next two weeks to try again to beat back the pandemic.
The heads of the 17 local governments in the metropolis have not made any recommendations to the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, the temporary government body overseeing the administration’s response to the coronavirus crisis, on the quarantine level after June 15, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) said on Sunday.
Jose Arturo Garcia, MMDA general manager, said the mayors held an online meeting on Saturday but discussed only bus route interconnection and introduction of bicycle lanes.
He said the mayors did not talk about making a single stand on quarantine level, as they did in May, recommending to the task force the relaxation of the modified enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila to general community quarantine to allow the reopening of more businesses and the resumption of public transportation on a limited scale.
Decision on Monday
President Rodrigo Duterte approved the relaxation of the curbs starting June 1, subject to biweekly assessment. He is expected to announce on Monday whether the restrictions will be eased further or maintained or tightened to the May level to arrest the rise of new coronavirus infections.
Regardless of the President’s decision, Garcia said the local governments may still place villages or zones on lockdown to contain the spread of the new coronavirus that causes the severe respiratory ailment COVID-19.
“What is important is that the public should not forget that COVID-19 still exists, and [that] there is still no vaccine [for it],” Garcia said. “We should not lose focus. We still need to be more careful.”
Besides Metro Manila, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon and the provinces of Pangasinan and Albay are also under general community quarantine. Central Visayas has been reporting most of the new infections in recent days.
Cebu City, which is under general community quarantine, has seen a spike in infections attributed to backlog, but the local government is already mulling over a loosening of the restrictions to allow more economic activity.
Metro Manila still epicenter
In May, the World Health Organization warned countries, including the Philippines, against a rush to reopening, which might lead to a resurgence of the new coronavirus. In the Philippines, researchers from the University of the Philippines cautioned against a “premature” loosening of quarantine restrictions, warning that it could lead to 24,000 coronavirus cases and 1,700 deaths by mid-June.
As of Sunday, the Philippine coronavirus caseload was 25,930. Of those cases, 1,088 have led to deaths.
“It is in this light that we exhort the government to reconsider its plan of relaxing [the quarantine] for selected cities within Metro Manila,” they said.
Although Central Visayas appeared to have become a new battleground in the fight against COVID-19, Metro Manila remains the epicenter of the local epidemic, Malacañang pointed out on Thursday.
The continuing rise in the number of coronavirus infections, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque told reporters, “does not inspire relaxation” of quarantine restrictions.
The task force, however, has made recommendations, he said, and the final decision is up to President Duterte.
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