MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte has postponed his scheduled meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) in Davao City on Thursday, Malacañang announced on Wednesday.

In an interview with state-run PTV-4, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte would instead meet with IATF-EID members in Manila on Monday.

“Ang susunod pong pulong kay Presidente ay Lunes na po. So na-postpone po ang ating pagpupulong ng Thursday. Sa Maynila na (The President’s next meeting [with the IATF-EID] is on Monday. So the scheduled meeting on Thursday was postponed. It will be held in Manila),” Roque said.

Duterte was supposed to hold a meeting with the IATF-EID in Davao City on Thursday to discuss the quarantine classifications in the country.

General community quarantine (GCQ) is imposed in Pangasinan, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Metro Manila, Central Visayas, Zamboanga City, Davao City, Albay, Cebu City, and Mandaue until June 15.

The rest of the country, on the other hand, is under modified GCQ (MGCQ), the least restrictive community quarantine imposed by the national government amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, also up to June 15.

The IATF-EID is scheduled to meet on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the possible relaxation or tightening of community quarantines in the country, depending on the case doubling rate of Covid-19 infections and the critical health care capacity.

Roque, in another interview with ABS-CBN News Channel, said the “new normal” could be declared in areas that are currently placed under MGCQ.

The new normal can only be attained when quarantine restrictions are lifted.

Areas under GCQ, except Metro Manila and Cebu City, might be under MGCQ beginning June 16, he said, adding that the government needs to assess whether Metro Manila and Cebu City, where Covid-19 cases continue to rise, can afford to be under MGCQ.

“Ang inaasahan po natin, lahat ng parte ng bansa, either papunta na sa MGCQ o papunta na sa new normal (We expect that all parts of the country will either be under MGCQ or the new normal [starting June 16]),” Roque said.

‘Difficult’ to achieve zero Covid-19 cases

Meanwhile, he noted that it is still a challenge to make the Philippines virus-free.

Roque’s statement came after New Zealand has hit a milestone in the fight against Covid-19 after reporting no active cases in the country.

He explained that the Philippines has a bigger population than New Zealand, making it difficult for the Duterte government to curb the spread of Covid-19.

“Tatapatin ko po kayo. Medyo mahirap makamit ‘yan ng Pilipinas kasi kung ikukumpara mo sa New Zealand, ang land area niyan ay kasinglaki lang ng Luzon, ang population niyan ay five million lang. Eh tayo sa Metro Manila lang, 14 million na tayo so talagang dikit dikit na tayo, dahilan kung bakit mabilis kumalat ang sakit (To be honest with you, it would be difficult for the Philippines to achieve that because if you compare the two countries, New Zealand’s land area is just as big as Luzon and its population is only five million. Metro Manila has 14 million people, making it easy for the disease to spread),” he said.

As of June 9, the Philippines has recorded 22,992 Covid-19 infections.

About 4,736 Covid-19 patients have recovered, while 1,017 people have died of the disease. (PNA)