MANILA – The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) has yet to come up with a recommendation to President Rodrigo Duterte regarding the possible extension or lifting of the enhanced community quarantine, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said on Tuesday.
Año bared that health experts, however, praised the enhanced community quarantine during their meeting with the President on Monday as it gained “a lot of good success”.
Without the lockdown, Año said positive cases of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) could have surged to 80,000 with 5,000 deaths.
He added that the task force wants to increase the testing capacity of the country to up to 50 percent which is equivalent to 28,000 to 30,000 tests a day.
“Then, that is really a very good capacity that we can say we can really stop the spread of the virus,” Año said in a TV interview.
Año, however, believes that the quarantine should not be lifted unless the country will be able to increase its testing capacity and appropriate measures will be implemented.
“Meron tayong mga kondisyon na dapat susundin ng mga tao, pag di yan sinunod wag na tayong mag lift ng lockdown… kasama na dyan ang physical social distancing. Protektahan ang mga elderly, ‘yung mga may (There are certain conditions that the people must comply with. If we cannot follow that, let’s not lift the lockdown. That includes physical social distancing. Let’s also protect the elderly and those with) health issues,” he added.
Currently, the DOH is capable of conducting 3,000 tests per day but the agency aims to increase capacity between 8,000 to 10,000 tests per day by the end of April.
Año also said that he directed the Philippine National Police (PNP) to prepare big jails for all the violators.
“Mag-prepare tayo ng malaking kulungan and let them suffer the inconvenience, [Prepare big jails and let them suffer the inconvenience],” Año said.
If possible, Año said, he wants the detention of all the violators all throughout the implementation of the lockdown.
“Para sigurado nang wag pamarisan ng ibang kababayan natin [To make sure that our countrymen will not follow what they did],” Año said.
Año said that the formal order was already given to PNP chief, Gen. Archie Francisco Gamboa.
He explained that several laws could be used against the violators depending on the circumstances.
Also, Año assured that police would not violate the human rights of the violators.
“Yung i-impose nating sanction and penalty dapat (The sanctions and penalties must be) in accordance with the Commission on Human Rights regulations and also in accordance with international humanitarian law,” Año added.
Detention of the violators could last to 12 hours if there are no charges filed.
However, if there are charges, the violators could be detained for more than 12 hours until the inquest.
Moreover, Año said that local government units (LGUs) could impose total lockdown “depending on the situation”.
Año also encouraged all LGUs to pass ordinances penalizing violators.
Año reminded the public to stop being hard-headed and stay in their homes or face arrest if they commit violation of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
“We are in a very unique and desperate situation in trying to flatten the curve of the Covid-19 infection in the country (so) please stay where you are. If you are stopped at a checkpoint and you have no valid reason, you will be fined and even arrested and told to go back where you come from,” he added.
Año made the statement after continuously receiving reports that there were still stranded individuals from Metro Manila who were denied entry on control points on their respective provinces.
He said that according to DILG Region 1, there are residents of Metro Manila who are currently stranded outside of the borders of Pangasinan after attempting to enter the province.
He said there were also similar boundaries of Zamboanga City, Quezon Province and Camarines Sur where people from Metro Manila are currently stranded at checkpoints because they are not Authorized Persons Outside of Residence (APOR).
LGUs told to focus on contact tracing
Año also urged the local government units to strengthen contact tracing operations of possible carriers of the disease on their respective communities.
He said it is the responsibility of the local officials to Detect, Isolate, Treat, and Reintegrate (DITR) the carriers in accordance with the National Strategy to Defeat Covid-19 of the IATF and NTF Covid-19.
“With the absence of the cure and the vaccine against Covid-19 for now, the fight against this virus is in contact tracing. It is urgent that LGUs identify the hosts or carriers of Covid-19 in every locality to prevent further spread of this deadly virus,” he said.
He said efficient contact tracing of possible Covid patients will mitigate the possibility of contagion.
In DILG Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 2020-073, Año further enjoined LGUs to increase the number of trained personnel to conduct swabbing and specimen collection to assist the Local Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (LESU). The LGU personnel shall be trained by the Regional/Provincial/City/Municipal Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit. (PNA)