MANILA — The inter-agency task force leading the country's pandemic response on Wednesday urged Filipinos to keep calm and refrain from speculating on quarantine restrictions for August, following a call for a stricter lockdown to arrest the spread of the highly infectious COVID-19 Delta variant.
The OCTA research group has urged government to place Metro Manila under a "circuit-breaking" lockdown to curb an uptick in coronavirus infections in the capital, following the confirmation of the Delta variant's local transmission.
"Huwag po nating pangunahan ‘yong mga lockdown or anything like that. We don’t want to create a sense of panic also sa ating mga kababayan," said IATF co-chairperson and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles.
(Let us not pre-empt the lockdowns or anything like that. We don’t want to create a sense of panic among our compatriots.)
"A sense of heightened responsibility na lang siguro, ‘yong i-heighten na lang ang ating pagbabantay, pag-iiwas, mga health protocols… not a sense of panic," he advised the public.
(Let us just have heightened responsibility, heighten our monitoring, avoidance of risks, and compliance with health protocols--not a sense of panic.)
"The economy will still continue to function" with the August quarantine, said the official.
The IATF has informed local governments of their initial quarantine classifications from Aug. 1. Mayors and governors have until this Wednesday to appeal against these, he told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
The task force, he said, would meet again on Thursday about the appeals and submit a final recommendation to President Rodrigo Duterte.
"Hopefully by tomorrow or sa Friday, mai-announce na natin ano ‘yong community quarantine classifications natin para sa buong bansa… Abangan na lang natin," Nograles said.
(Let us just wait.)
In the meantime, local chief executives are authorized to impose granular lockdowns in areas with rising cases, he said.
Hospitals in Metro Manila may reach full capacity by mid-August if the national government does not tighten community quarantine restrictions in the region, OCTA said Wednesday.
Based on projections from Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam, Metro Manila's health care utilization rate may be 100 percent full as early as August 15, said OCTA Research fellow Fr. Nicanor Austriaco.
"Once a Delta surge begins, it accelerates in an explosive fashion," he said in an online press conference.
With more than 1.5 million coronavirus cases and more than 27,000 deaths, the Philippines has the second worst outbreak in Southeast Asia.
The Delta variant, which is known to be twice more contagious than other mutations of COVID-19, has been confirmed to have infected at least 119 Filipinos as of July 24.
Duterte on Monday said while the country could no longer afford more lockdowns, he could not completely rule out stricter curbs if the spread of the Delta variant get worse.
He also called on the public to get vaccinated.
The Philippines has so far fully immunized about 6.8 million out of its 58 to 70 million target population this year, data shows.