MANILA – Interior Secretary Eduardo Año is “confident” that the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine to contain the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) will be lifted on April 12 but said it will be still subject to government’s assessment.
“That we have to assess, but I’m confident that we can,” he said in a press briefing in Malacañang on Wednesday.
Even after the quarantine is lifted, he said the government will continue to strictly enforce social distancing of at least six feet apart from each other.
“Of course, it doesn’t mean that’s the end of the spread. We have to still continue the practice of strict social distancing,” he said.
He said social distancing should also be observed by residents in the islands of Visayas and Mindanao, which are not covered by the national government’s quarantine.
Since the quarantine has yet to be lifted, he said “draconian” measures are needed to prevent a sharp peak of Covid-19 cases.
“Draconian measures ang kailangan natin para mag-flatten ang curve and ma-contain natin if not eliminate the spread of the virus (Draconian measures is needed to flatten the curve and contain if not eliminate the spread of the virus),” he said.
Citing studies by the World Health Organization (WHO), he said the number of Covid-19 cases in the country could reach 75,000 in five months if efforts to contain the spread of the virus fail.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, in the same media briefing, said by April 12, the goal is for the government to report that it has been able to contain Covid-19 by isolating all infected persons and maintaining zero cases in more communities.
“The victory we want to happen is hindi na siya mag-spread (there is no further spread), there are hopefully no new cases happening and just like in Wuhan kung saan wala nang (where there are no) new cases and then naka-focus na sila sa (they focus on) treatment (and recovery),” he said.
Last March 18, China’s health commission announced that there were no more local transmissions of Covid-19 for the first time since the outbreak began. The new cases reported were all overseas arrivals.
In the Philippines, there are a total of 636 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the Philippines and 38 fatalities as of Wednesday afternoon.
Nograles said it is too early to think of further extending the quarantine to a much later date.
“Instead of looking at that, I think we really just have to concentrate on social distancing measure, kung ano yung nasa (what’s in the) guidelines. Tsaka na natin isipin ‘yan (Let’s set that aside). Focus muna tayo on the task at hand,” he said. “Let’s take it one step at a time.”
No need to expand quarantine to VisMin
At present, Año said he saw no need to expand the quarantine to Visayas and Mindanao but is open to that possibility if recommended by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease.
“Hindi pa naman kailangang buong Visayas at Mindanao para tuluy-tuloy pa rin naman yung kanilang normal na buhay lalo na sa trabaho and food production (There is still no need to expand the quarantine to the whole of Visayas and Mindanao so that they can go on with their daily lives especially at work and food production). But if there is a necessity and depending on the development, i-a-assess ng IATF ‘yan (the IATF will assess it),” he said.
Several local government units (LGUs) in Visayas and Mindanao have imposed general community quarantines to minimize the transmission of the disease.
He said he was contented by the performance of Luzon LGUs during the first week of the quarantine’s implementation but admitted that there were still challenges such as depleted food supply and Covid-19 testing kits
President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday (March 24) signed the “Bayanihan To Heal As One” Act (Republic Act 11469), which grants special authority to address the Covid-19 pandemic by realigning the national budget.
The newly-signed law also gives Duterte authority to facilitate the immediate testing of persons under investigation (PUIs) and monitoring (PUMs), and direct establishments to house health workers, serve as quarantine areas, or relief and aid distribution venues, and expedite the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) suits and other medical equipment.
It also provides subsidies to low-income households, implement an expanded and enhanced Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program (4Ps) for those affected by the quarantine, ensure availability of credit to productive sectors, reschedule deadlines for the filing of government requirements, and order a grace period on paying residential rents or loans, among others.
Nograles is hopeful that with the signing of the Bayanihan To Heal As One, government can “move faster, mobilize more people, and more resources” to respond to the ongoing health crisis. (ia/PNA)