Long-term programs, not just lockdowns, needed to fight COVID-19 surges – Duque
MANILA, Philippines — Lockdowns are not enough to fight surges in COVID-19 cases, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said in a taped briefing with President Rodrigo Duterte that aired Wednesday night.
“We need to implement long-term moves or actions so that we will be more prepared for a possible surge [in COVID-19 cases] and for other pandemics that may come,” Duque said in Filipino.
“We have seen that, despite the decrease in the number of cases whenever we implement an enhanced community quarantine, this has a big negative effect on our economy and the livelihood of our countrymen,” he added.
Among the long-term programs that Duque mentioned were heightened contact tracing and monitoring, better referral systems for a more robust healthcare system, and stronger financial mechanisms to cover the expenses of patients.
Duque also reported on the effects of various quarantine levels imposed on the National Capital Region (NCR) Plus — which is composed of Metro Manila, Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite, and Laguna.
He said there was a decrease in COVID-19 cases when the NCR Plus shifted from strict to less restrictive levels of quarantine — from enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) in late March to April to general community quarantine after that.
But the decrease in cases was slower than expected, he added.
On the other hand, he said, COVID-19 cases were still rising in the Visayas and Mindanao.
“We are already monitoring this,” he said.
He then suggested that local chief executives could help maintain the decrease in COVID-19 cases in the NCR Plus by implementing heightened restrictions.
“That’s why we have been repeatedly asking the public for its cooperation in following the correct wearing of face masks and face shield, keeping a distance of one meter or more [from each other], frequent washing of hands, and avoidance of crowded places to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” he said.
Shortly before March, the NCR Plus saw surge in COVID-19 cases, with daily case increases ballooning to around 10,000 to 12,000, pushing the number of active cases to a high of over 200,000.
On Wednesday, the country registered 5,310 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the active case count to 46,037.
While the infections are lower than during the peak of the surge, they are still more than those recorded from November 2020 to January 2021, when cases subsided.
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