To extend or not to extend Luzon lockdown? Duterte 'needs more time' to decide

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 21 2020 11:53 AM | Updated as of Apr 21 2020 03:09 PM

President Duterte holds a meeting with members of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on April 20, 2020. Ace Morandante, Presidential Photo

MANILA (UPDATE) -- President Rodrigo Duterte needs more time to decide on the fate of the Luzon lockdown, which was imposed to halt the spread of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Palace officials said Tuesday.

Duterte on Monday heard suggestions from medical experts, and reviewed options that the government could employ to respond to the pandemic.

“It’s not an easy decision to come up with and we still have time for the President to give his decision,” Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, also the spokesman of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on the COVID-19 pandemic said in a virtual press briefing.

"[The President] needs more time basically," Nograles said.

Members of the country's pandemic task force on Monday failed to reach a consensus on the government's next step once the lockdown in Luzon expires on April 30.

So far, Nograles said the pandemic task force has only agreed on a "framework" and options that Duterte said must be reviewed anew before he makes his decision.

"It was a very extensive discussion at lahat ng inputs na maaaring ibigay ng isa ay nabigay naman pero bitin, bitin pa din so we have to do another round of discussions," Nograles said.

(All the inputs that could be provided were discussed but we need more time so we have to do another round of discussions.)

Luzon, home to nearly half of the Philippines' 100 million population, was placed under lockdown on March 17 as the government moved to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The lockdown, which was supposed to end on April 12, was extended until April 30 as the government said it needed more time to prepare for a "new normal." 

The lockdown has canceled classes in all levels in Luzon, suspended public transport, forced closure of malls, hotels, and churches, and shut down operations of several businesses. 

OPTIONS

Among the options being considered by the government at this point are relaxing the lockdown in some areas, lifting it in areas with few COVID-19 cases, and retaining the lockdown in areas with high cases of the disease, Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque said on Tuesday. 

No suggestions were made with regards to a "total lockdown" or extending the enhanced community quarantine in the entire Luzon.

"I would say that there was almost a consensus na ang ECQ eh hindi naman dapat ipatupad sa buong Luzon," he said.

(I would say that there was almost a consensus that the ECQ should not cover the whole Luzon.)

So far, Malacañang said COVID-19 cases are high in Metro Manila, parts of Bulacan, and the Southern Tagalog Region (Calabarzon).

As of Monday, COVID-19 has so far infected 6,459 people in the Philippines, with 428 deaths and 613 recoveries.