IATF extends toughest lockdown level in NCR Plus for another week ‘at least’
MANILA (UPDATE) — Malacañang on Saturday said 24 million people in Metro Manila and four surrounding provinces would stay under the strictest of quarantine levels for another week “at least” to curb a surge in COVID-19 infections.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the capital region, home to 12 million people, and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal—which government collectively calls “NCR Plus”—would be extended beginning on Monday, April 5.
This was already approved by President Rodrigo Duterte, Roque told reporters in a text message on Saturday.
The ECQ was initially set to end on Sunday, April 4 as earlier recommended by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases.
Roque said the affected regions can shift to the loosened moderate enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) if the strict lockdown is deemed effective.
“Kung napatunayan po natin na gumagana ang ating PDITR (prevent, detect, isolate, treat, reintegrate), e pupuwede naman po tayong mag-MECQ sa susunod na linggo. Pero titingnan po muna natin ang resulta ng karagdagang ECQ,” Roque said.
(If we prove that the PDITR program is effective, we can shift to MECQ the week after. But let’s see first the result of the ECQ extension.)
Gatherings of more than 10 people, non-essential movement and dining in restaurants would remain banned in ECQ areas. Other strict protocols would also remain in place.
The Philippines’ health department on Saturday recorded 12,576 new coronavirus infections, the country’s second-highest confirmation since the pandemic reached the country early last year.
In a bulletin, the agency said total confirmed cases has increased to 784,043, of which, 165,715 are active, while confirmed deaths reached 13,423. The caseload is among the highest in Asia.
Most of the new cases are in the congested capital region, a conglomeration of 16 cities and a municipality. Hospitals’ intensive care and isolation bed capacity have reached critical levels, government data showed.
ECQ reduces businesses that can operate at full capacity, and limits the capacity of public transport.
The health department’s Epidemiology Bureau chief Dr. Alethea De Guzman said in an earlier interview that while the original week-long ECQ could slightly reduce infections, cases might rise if ECQ is lifted.
“Isa sa mga nirerekomenda nating eksperto, baka kinakailangan i-extend,” she said in a press briefing on Monday.
(One recommendation of our experts is that we might need to extend this.)
However, lockdowns have taken a huge toll on the Philippine economy, which contracted by a record 9.5 percent last year.
The National Economic and Development Authority said tighter curbs would worsen hunger and unemployment.