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Palace says lockdown extension unlikely, cites dwindling funds

/ 04:41 AM August 12, 2020

MARKET WATCH Looking for violators of health and safety regulations, an Army soldier extends his patrol to the interior of the public market in Taytay, Rizal province, on Tuesday. The municipality recently passed an ordinance requiring residents to wear not only protective masks but also face shields in public places to curb the transmission of the coronavirus. —GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

President Duterte is wary about extending the modified enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite and Rizal amid dwindling funds for cash aid.

Malacañang said although prolonging the lockdown beyond Aug. 18 is possible, it is “highly unlikely.”

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In a televised speech aired on Monday, the President said he could not give in to the request of the medical community for a longer lockdown because the government has no more money for social amelioration.

“I’m telling the doctors, much as I really would want to give in to your demands, especially in the matter of the lockdown … the problem is the funds are already depleted. We need the people to go back to work,” he said.

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The President made the remarks following calls from Dr. Anthony Leachon, former special adviser to the National Task Force Against COVID-19, to extend the lockdown to a full month to slow the spread of the coronavirus in Metro Manila.

Sought for clarification on Tuesday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said it was “highly unlikely” that Mr. Duterte would agree to extend the lockdown to a month.

“The question is if it’s possible, my answer is that anything is possible but highly unlikely,” Roque said in a press briefing.

Roque said prolonging the lockdown “cannot be done anymore,” not unless Leachon would be willing to provide cash aid to residents.

He said the government was focusing its efforts to ramping up test, trace, isolate and treat strategies to address the growing number of the new coronavirus infections.

Roque pointed out that Metro Manila, the country’s economic hub, loses P18 billion a day during the lockdown.

“The President is straightforward and transparent. There is no more aid for those who cannot go to work, so we have to live despite and in spite. Protect our health so that we can go on with our daily lives,” he said.

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Roque added that the Aug. 24 opening of classes will push through for now.

He assured the public that the government is constantly revising its pandemic strategy to make it responsive to the situation.

“No one among us works under 14 hours a day to find ways to control COVID-19. We may not be as successful but I can assure you, everyone is working darn hard to find a solution to the problem. If there are lapses, we ask for your understanding, but you can expect that the government is not sleeping on the job,” Roque said.

On Monday night, the President urged the public to cooperate with the community quarantine restrictions, warning that he will tap the military to enforce it in case of a “runaway contagion.”

“If I cannot make you follow and it’s a runaway contagion, I will be forced to use the military because the police are not enough. If the military is there to force you to obey the community lockdown, obey it because it is for your own good,” Mr. Duterte said.

The government has tapped both the military and the police to enforce lockdown restrictions since March.

Meanwhile, the President has approved new health measures to be observed in workplaces in locked down areas.

Roque said Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez presented the new health rules, which would ban dine-in services in canteens and common smoking areas in workplaces.

In lieu of common smoking areas, only individual smoking areas or booths in open spaces will be allowed.

Companies must provide shuttle service for their employees, while employees are not allowed to remove their face masks and shields while in the vehicle. INQ

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