Extend or lower ECQ? Metro Manila mayors leave it up to COVID-19 task force

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 18 2021 05:12 PM | Updated as of Aug 18 2021 06:41 PM

Police officers flag down motorcycles passing through a checkpoint along a busy road in Sta. Ana, Manila on Wednesday as the capital region remains under enhanced community quarantine.
Police officers flag down motorcycles passing through a checkpoint along a busy road in Sta. Ana, Manila on Wednesday as the capital region remains under enhanced community quarantine. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (UPDATE) — Metro Manila mayors made no recommendation on whether or not to extend the capital region's lockdown and left it up to the inter-agency task force on COVID-19, their representative said on Wednesday, as coronavirus infections continued to climb. 

The enhanced community quarantine over Metro Manila's more than 13 million people will lapse on Friday, Aug. 20. 

While the mayors of the region's 16 cities and lone town "know what is happening on the ground," they "have to weigh both economic and health factors in our decision," said Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Benhur Abalos. 

"We feel it best to leave the decision to the wisdom and judgement of the IATF," he said of possible quarantine changes. 
 
"This is a very sensitive and critical matter right now. We do not want to have any wrong decision," the official said in a virtual press conference. 

AYUDA

Abalos said the mayors opted not to make a recommendation on the quarantine classification after meeting on Tuesday with health experts, the interior department, economic managers, and vaccine "czar" Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. 

During the meeting, he noted it was unclear if some projections on ECQ extension were based on vaccination data in July or August.

"Iyong projections medyo, siguro, aayusin pa nila," Abalos said. 

(The projections, perhaps, they will need to fix first.)

Metro Manila has received from the national government around P11.25 billion in cash aid to help poor residents cope with the ECQ. 
 
"Hindi namin alam ang magiging desisyon ng IATF. Kung ito’y ECQ, ayuda is a big issue there, kung mayroon pang pang-ayuda ang national government; I really do not know," Abalos said. 

(We do not know what the decision of the IATF will be. If this is ECQ, cash aid is a big issue there, whether or not the government has enough funds for assistance.)

The IATF would discuss on Thursday the quarantine levels for the rest of the month, Abalos said. 

 VACCINATION FALLS SHORT OF TARGET 

Metro Manila fell short of its target to give out 250,000 COVID-19 shots a day during its Aug. 6-20 ECQ, Abalos acknowledged. Inoculations, he said, peaked at about 240,000 coronavirus jabs last Aug. 12. 

Challenges to the immunization drive include delayed certificates of analysis for some jabs, some people's preference for particular brands, and limited manpower, the official said. 

In total, Metro Manila has administered some 10 million COVID-19 jabs, Abalos said. Around 90 percent of the region's senior citizens have received their first jab, while around 46 percent of people with comorbidity have also gotten at least one jab, he said. 

Abalos noted critical cases of COVID-19 this ECQ are fewer compared to previous surges, despite the rise in the number of active cases. He attributed this to the vaccination drive. 

"In the sense na iyong pagbabakuna ay talagang itinodo namin, for us, is a success on that aspect," Abalos said, when asked on how he would assess the ECQ. 

(In the sense that we maxed up our vaccination is a success for for us on that aspect.)

Battling one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in Asia, the Philippines has tallied some 1.7 million infections and around 30,000 deaths. Authorities are scrambling to contain the highly contagious Delta variant linked to a recent spike in coronavirus cases. 

Authorities aim to immunize up to 70 million people this year to safely reopen the economy. At least 12.7 million people have been fully vaccinated nationwide so far. 

 

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