MANILA - An adviser of the inter-agency task force on COVID-19 backed Friday extending the lockdown of 12.8 million people in Metro Manila to contain the pandemic and give way to mass testing for the virus.
The capital region accounts for about 80 percent of the country's 2,633 patients with the respiratory disease, whose daily toll of new cases is still "very steep" and has yet to peak, said Dr. Tony Leachon.
"Iyong National Capital Region, dapat i-maintain ang lockdown pero sa Luzon, maaaring lumuwag doon," said Leachon, who is also a former consultant of the health department and director of PhilHealth.
Work, classes and mass transport in the entire Luzon are suspended while all households are under home quarantine until April 12 to curb the pandemic.
If the lockdown in Metro Manilla is extended, other Luzon areas with "sporadic" COVID-19 cases can continue the quarantine of people with symptoms, tracing those who interacted with patients and practice physical distancing, Leachon told DZMM.
The government on April 14 eyes mass testing, which other countries like South Korea and Australia did to isolate carriers of the disease, he said.
"Hindi ito (COVID-19) puwedeng matalo kung hindi tayo magma-mass testing," said Leachon, who is an internist and cardiologist at the Manila Doctors Hospital. "'Pag hindi ka nag-testings dito, para kang naghahanap ng aspile sa dayami nang bulag ang mata."
(This cannot be beaten if we don't do mass testing. Without this, it will be as if we're blindly searching for a needle in a haystack.)
The Philippines as of Thursday confirmed 107 deaths due to the pandemic and 51 patients who recovered. Even during the lockdown, cases of the disease could spike following the recent delivery of test kits and the accreditation of additional screening laboratories, the health department earlier said.