MANILA - The Philippines is "still in control" in managing the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the vice chair of its National Task Force against the virus said Monday, even as the country topped the number of cases in Asia, overtaking mainland China where it originated.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said the number of virus patients will improve following the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) imposed on virus epicenter Metro Manila and nearby provinces Laguna, Bulacan, Cavite, and Rizal until August 18.
"We are still in control and we placed NCR (National Capital Region) and 4 provinces under MECQ because of course we know our hospitals are overwhelmed so we have tor restrict the movement of the people," he told ANC.
"Eventually we hope the numbers will improve and we always see the effect of an MECQ within incubation period of 14 days. It’s not just like magic that when we declare MECQ that everything is okay, we have to do a lot of efforts."
Año said virus patients who isolated themselves infected family members which led to the surge in COVID-19 cases in areas under lockdown.
Half of COVID-19 patients in Metro Manila are in home quarantine, while Laguna has 70 percent of virus cases in self-isolation, according to Año.
"It’s not rocket science. People will always stick for comfort…knowing the Filipino culture, we are very close with each other, most of our kababayans are violating home quarantine. Some people would like to hide because they don’t want other people to know they’re positive...They may not be able to work," he said.
But the Philippines has "enough space" in its facilities to house mild and asymptomatic patients, he claimed.
During the 2-week modified lockdown, the government has to speed up its contact tracing and track up to 37 close contacts of virus patients, Año said.
"And we have to isolate and test these people but sometimes we are tracing too late. They have already infected many people before we are able to test and isolate these people," he said.
Virus hotspots that needed to be placed on lockdown will be prioritized in authorities' house-to-house checking of symptoms, the NTF vice-chair said.
"We have teams working with the local government units (LGUs). We encourage our LGUs down to the barangay to do their effort. Habang maliit pa ang numero they should do those interventions," he said.
The Philippines as of Sunday reported 129,913 cases of COVID-19, with 67,673 recoveries and 2,270 deaths.