Vico Sotto pushes for more COVID-19 tests for Pasig before lifting lockdown

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 22 2020 02:47 PM

Health workers conduct their routine swab testing for the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) on their fellow hospital employees at the Sta. Ana Hospital in Manila on April 14, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto said Wednesday lifting strict quarantine measures in his city might be “premature” until ramped-up mass testing is completed to give authorities a clearer picture of the extent of the coronavirus infection there.

The steady number of new cases reported daily may suggest a flattening of the infection curve, but can also be “because we haven’t tested enough,” he said.

The city government has introduced a mass testing program covering all suspected cases of COVID-19, those who came in close contact with them, and medical frontliners.

“Before we even talk about lifting the quarantine, we have to make sure this mass testing is already up and running,” he told an online forum.

“We see here in Pasig, it might be a little bit premature to lift the enhanced community quarantine. Parang sayang if we lift it now when there are still a high number of cases and an increasing number of cases every day. Why did we have that quarantine in the first place?”

President Rodrigo Duterte is set to decide whether to lift the Luzon-wide lockdown scheduled to end on April 30 or extend it under modified quarantine measures.

LOCAL STIMULUS PACKAGE

In Pasig, Sotto said the enhanced community quarantine appeared to be helping contain the virus. But any decision to lift or extend it should cover the entire Metro Manila, he said.

“If we have one city that lifts, it doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

Like other cities, Pasig officials were trying to balance between defeating the COVID-19 outbreak and keeping businesses alive.

Sotto said the city would roll out a local economic stimulus package once the quarantine was lifted.

Nearly half of Pasig’s 93,000 low-income families have received the first batch of cash aid worth P8,000 from the national government, with distribution to be completed in less than a week, he said.

The city government will provide a separate social amelioration program for some 150,000 poor families not included in the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s list, he said.

MILITARY PRESENCE

Sotto is open to the national government’s plan to bring in soldiers to keep people off the streets as authorities tighten measures during the tail-end of the Luzon lockdown.

The interior department earlier warned of more arrests under a “martial law-style” enforcement of the quarantine measures, raising fears that people might be rounded up even without a warrant.

Sotto said the public should look more closely into how the threat would actually be implemented on the ground, including the deployment of military personnel.

“If stricter measures and even military presence would come, not necessarily to make arrests, but just to show people that we’re serious about this, then we should keep an open mind,” he said.

“If we see that they’re doing their jobs properly and they’re not breaking any laws, and they’re helping with the enforcement — ok, a little bit of intimidation maybe — then there shouldn’t be a problem with that,” he added, citing the difficulty of ensuring full compliance among his city’s 800,000 residents.