Another lockdown not good for economy – Palace
MANILA, Philippines — Despite the rising number of COVID-19 cases, Malacañang sees no need to place the country on a stricter quarantine level this month and says another lockdown will not be good for the economy.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Monday said the health service could still handle the current number of COVID-19 patients.
“For the month of March, I don’t think it is called for,” Roque said in a press briefing when asked if a shift to the stricter enhanced community quarantine or its modified version was necessary given the rising number of coronavirus infections.
Based on data
The decision on quarantine levels is based on data, and it shows that 60 percent of intensive care unit beds, 65 percent of isolation beds, 75 percent of ward beds, and 77 percent of ventilators are available, he said.
“Let us say that the number of cases is rising, but we can also see that we are ready to treat those who would be seriously ill, which would be 2 to 3 percent of those who would be infected,” he said.
Roque said another lockdown would not be good for the economy.
“Truth be told, we can no longer take a lockdown. So many are going hungry. So our appeal is to take care of our selves so that we could earn a living,” he said.
For March, Metro Manila is on general community quarantine, along with Baguio City, Apayao, Kalinga, Mountain Province, Batangas, Tacloban City, Iligan City, Davao City and Lanao del Sur.
The rest of the country is on the least restrictive modified general community quarantine.
Roque said the Palace had directed government agencies as well as local governments to be stricter in implementing minimum health standards and in isolating infected people.
The same goes with contact tracing and testing and isolating people exposed to the patients, he added.
Dr. Manuel Dayrit, a former health secretary, said the country need not be placed on a stricter quarantine level if health standards were strictly enforced and the vaccination drive sped up.
Dayrit said the current infection levels were projected by a group of health experts way back in December based on a model where people’s mobility rate increased by 75 percent or above and compliance with health standards dropped by 75 percent to 95 percent.
The drop in compliance “can be fixed,” Dayrit said, but reducing mobility, which means stricter curbs, must be balanced with the government’s policy of opening up the economy.
Butch Ong of OCTA Research said the rise in COVID-19 cases was more rapid compared to July last year.
The community transmission in Metro Manila is “really quite high,” Ong said.
He noted that the positivity rate in Quezon City is 8 percent and in Makati 10 percent.
In Pasig it is 9 percent, in Navotas 8 percent, and in Pasay 6 percent, he said.
OCTA’s recommendation is for local governments to implement local community movement restrictions, he said.
“We believe targeted lockdowns [can] prevent superspreader events,” Ong told a news briefing.
People must also be vigilant and improve compliance with minimum health standards, he said.
These practices will work against the more transmissible UK and South Africa variants of the COVID-19 virus, he added.
The Department of Trade and Industry has recommended the reopening of movie houses and leisure arcades in places on general community quarantine to help boost efforts to revive the economy.
The Metro Manila mayors, however, have agreed to keep the movie houses and leisure arcades closed to prevent further spread of the virus.
But Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said in a radio interview on Monday that the mayors could still allow the reopenings when coronavirus infections declined again.
— WITH REPORTS FROM JEROME ANING AND ROY STEPHEN C. CANIVEL
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