Medical community won’t seek extended lockdown
MANILA, Philippines — The medical community will not ask for an extension of the two-week lockdown on Metro Manila and four nearby provinces, the Philippine College of Physicians said on Tuesday as Malacañang rejected a University of the Philippines professor’s suggestion that the restrictions be maintained for a month to slow down the spread of the new coronavirus.
As the daily increase in new infections hit 5,000 toward the weekend, 80 medical groups representing 80,000 doctors and a million nurses called on President Rodrigo Duterte to place Metro Manila on enhanced community quarantine, or lockdown, for two weeks to give health workers time to recover from exhaustion.
The government’s economic managers opposed the lockdown, but Mr. Duterte granted the health workers’ request on Sunday, although he imposed less strict modified enhanced community quarantine restrictions on Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite and Rizal from Aug. 4 to 18.
“This timeout that we have asked for is the last one. We will not call for another timeout because we cannot really afford to miss out on this one,” Dr. Maricar Limpin, vice president of the physicians’ group, said on Tuesday.
She said the necessary and immediate interventions for the health system should be put in place in the next two weeks as this would determine the outcome of the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
“If we are unable to do the things we want, or at least what we can do in the next two weeks, it would be hard for us to win the fight against the coronavirus disease,” Limpin said.
But UP professor Guido David said it was not possible to slow down the spread of the virus in two weeks.
He said Cebu City, which recently experienced a surge in infections, had to be placed on a monthlong lockdown before cases slowed down.
Malacañang, however, had decided the economy had taken enough beating.
Impact on economy
“I will be honest with you, the economy can no longer stand a longer lockdown. Our figures for the second-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) will be out soon, and our economy really went down,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque told a news briefing.
“It will be very, very difficult for our economy if we will go into [a longer] lockdown. We have reached the point that maybe we can slow COVID-19,” Roque said, referring to the severe respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus. “But if there is no livelihood, how can ordinary citizens live?”
Roque said the government expected the moderate lockdown on Metro Manila and the four surrounding provinces to have a “negative impact” on the economy and that this would show in the next GDP report.
He pointed out that 67 percent of GDP is generated by Metro Manila and the Calabarzon region, which includes the locked down provinces of Cavite, Rizal and Laguna.
But since the health workers wanted only a two-week respite, the current lockdown won’t do much damage to the economy, he said.
The Department of Health (DOH) and the various groups overseeing the country’s coronavirus response met with representatives of more than a hundred medical societies after the President ordered the lockdown.
The DOH said it had formed a working group that would formulate strategies to handle such critical areas as workplace safety guidelines; proper distribution of aid to the poor; testing capabilities to ensure the use of appropriate tools in detecting infection; and handing down measures to local governments and businesses.
It was expected on Tuesday that the roles of all participating organizations, as well as timelines and targets, would be “more clearly defined,” the DOH said.
“Rest assured that we will continue to work with our health-care professionals in the coming days to come up with more concrete plans and a way forward by the end of the week,” it said.
Record daily rise
On Tuesday, the DOH reported yet another record-high spike in infections—6,352 new cases, which pushed the national tally to 112,593. Of the cases submitted by 80 of the 94 accredited laboratories, 3,139 were in Metro Manila; 592 in Laguna; 550 in Cavite; 277 in Rizal; and 261 in Cebu.
Of the new cases, 3,941 got sick between July 22 and Aug. 4, while 2,321 fell ill between July 1 and 21.
The DOH reported that 240 more patients had recovered, bringing the total number of COVID-19 survivors to 66,049.
The death toll, however, rose to 2,115 with the deaths of 11 more patients.
Of the newly reported fatalities, one died this month, eight in July, and one each in May and June. Five of the fatalities were from Central Visayas, two each from Davao and Zamboanga, and one each from Calabarzon and Metro Manila. —WITH A REPORT FROM JULIE M. AURELIO INQ
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