DTI chief to med groups: No to ECQ; we need to live with virus
MANILA, Philippines — Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez on Saturday said he did not support a call by medical groups to impose an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) for two weeks on Mega Manila.
The medical groups said that period could be used as a respite for “burnt out” health workers and to refine the country’s strategies in managing the different aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic as they warned that the health-care system was in danger of collapsing due to spikes in the number of cases.
“What is needed and we fully support is to address concerns of health workers. How can we help our frontliners? They need more support in all aspects,” Lopez said in a Viber message to reporters when asked to comment on the medical societies’ letter to President Duterte calling for the stricter quarantine.
“But we cannot go back to ECQ. [It’s] damaging to people’s health, with unemployment and poverty affecting health, wellness and nutrition intake. [It] will affect long-term health and capacity to learn for children,” he added.
“[We] need to manage and live with the virus, which is here to stay. [We need to be] balancing health and economy,” Lopez said.
This is the revised response of the head of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which recommends what businesses should be reopened under the different quarantine classifications.
The DTI on July 31 allowed more establishments to open under the current general community quarantine (GCQ), including gyms, internet shops and educational review centers.
Lopez had questioned whether the hospitals’ bed capacities were breached or they had just allotted fewer than the mandated number for COVID-19 patients.
“The data on critical hospitalization rate was also not accurate. It showed a critical level, but this was because hospitals were not allocating the mandated bed capacity for COVID-19 cases. [The] DOH (Department of Health) mandates a 30-percent allocation for private and 50 percent for government hospitals,” Lopez said.
Besides, he said, there were other ways to address the pandemic, such as “granular lockdowns, massive tracing, testing, isolation, treatment and stricter compliance to health protocol in transportation and business establishments.”
“We have been very careful in reopening [business] sectors, focusing on those with highest impact on livelihood and micro [small and medium-size enterprises]. Also, we made it clear to have very strict compliance to health protocols. Otherwise, we close the stores until they correct their deficiencies,” Lopez said.
Call to extend GCQ
It remains to be seen whether Lopez will maintain his position on the medical groups’ call after Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea called him and other key Cabinet members and officials involved in the pandemic response to a meeting on Saturday night to discuss the letter to the President.
A day before the letter was sent to the President, Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion said that the GCQ should be extended until the rest of the year.
“The question should not be [whether] we are retaining it every 15 days. We have to be able to retain it to the end of the year,” said Concepcion, who also heads food and beverage company RFM Corp.
“That’s because August is the beginning of higher demand given the approaching Christmas season. So any ECQ that happens would be disastrous for the economy,” he added.
The conversation on COVID-19 policy had often circled around the choice between lives and livelihoods, leading to deadlocks in the debate when the solution required might actually be more complicated than a false dichotomy.
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