Philippines can't afford return to ECQ, Palace says as COVID-19 cases surge

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS CBN News

Posted at Mar 08 2021 05:45 PM | Updated as of Mar 08 2021 07:35 PM

Philippines can't afford return to ECQ, Palace says as COVID-19 cases surge 1
Pedestrians cross a footbridge at the center bus lane terminal near Nepa-QMart along EDSA in Quezon City on March 5, 2021. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (UPDATE) — The Philippines cannot afford a return to stricter quarantine levels despite a surge in COVID-19 cases, Malacañang said on Monday. 

Metro Manila has recorded an average of 1,025 new daily cases over the past 7 days, an increase of 42 percent from the previous week and 130 percent compared to 2 weeks ago, the OCTA Research group said. 

Infections are "spreading more quickly than the July-August surge," in 2020, when the capital region was placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), the third strictest of 4 lockdown levels, added the independent research team. 

Asked if Metro Manila would return to ECQ, Palace spokesman Harry Roque said, "For the month of March, I don’t think it is called for." 

About 65 percent of isolation beds and 75 percent of ward beds are available, he said in a televised press briefing. 
 
"Sabihin na nating dumami ang kaso. Pero, nakikita naman natin, handa tayong gamutin iyong mga seryosong magkakasakit, na 2 to 3 percent ng mga magkakasakit," he said. 

(Let's say that cases increased. But we also see that we are ready to treat those who will get seriously ill, who are only 2 to 3 percent of those who have COVID-19.)

Local governments are ordered to boost contact-tracing, facility-based quarantine and localized lockdowns of areas with case clustering, Roque said. 

"Sa totoo lang po, hindi na po natin kaya na mag-lock down ng ating ekonomiya. Napakadami na pong nagugutom. So ang ating panawagan: Pangalagaan po natin ang ating mga sarili para tayo po ay makapag-hanapbuhay," he said. 

(In truth, we cannot afford to lock down our economy. Many people are going hungry. Our appeal is let us take care of ourselves so we can work.)

The nearly year-long quarantine meant to halt the spread of COVID-19 has left businesses struggling, millions jobless, and the economy falling into recession.

"Tingin ko, this surge is actually due to a drop in compliance which we can fix, and also, an increase in the mobility. D'yan natin kailangan ibalanse," former Health secretary Manuel Dayrit said in the same briefing. 

(I think this surge is actually due to a drop in compliance which we can fix, and also, an increase in the mobility. We need balance there.)

"Minimum health standards plus accelerated vaccination, I think, is the way to go," he added. 

In an interview on Teleradyo, Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, the World Health Organization Representative to the Philippines, said they have been discouraging the implementation of restrictions due to the impact on the economy.

"From the beginning of the pandemic, we said that putting high restrictions is not the way to respond to this pandemic because that creates unnecessary economic burden and restrictions on the communities," he said.

"That is why we were advocating early diagnosis, strengthening of contact tracing and management, and ensuring that infections are detected early and managed appropriately," Abeyasinghe added.

The Philippines has recorded a total of 597,763 coronavirus infections, among the highest in Asia, a few of which involve the more contagious coronavirus variants first identified in South Africa and Britain.

Video courtesy of PTV