MANILA — The Philippines might do away with regional or province-wide lockdowns in a looming "policy shift" to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, Malacañang ang the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said on Thursday.
A sub-technical working group led by the health department recommended resorting instead to granular lockdowns limited to subdivisions, streets, or several houses, said DILG Undersecretary Epimaco Densing.
"Ang mangyayari po kasi dito ngayon, pinaghahanda na rin natin ang mga lokal na gobyerno sa tinatawag nating policy shift on lockdowns," Densing said in a televised public briefing.
"Ang tinitingnan po natin... hindi na po tayo magkakaroon ng pangmalawakang lockdown na sa lebel ng rehiyon at probinsya," he added.
(What will happen here is we asked local governments to prepare for a so-called policy shift on lockdowns. We are looking at no longer having sweeping lockdowns at the level of the region and province.)
Unlike the current set-up, a granular lockdown will bar even authorized persons from leaving their homes, which will lessen public mobility and the chances of COVID-19 spread, Densing said.
The national government will help local authorities provide food assistance in areas under granular lockdowns, he added.
"Magkakaroon ng policy shift dahil nakita natin na mas epektibo 'yong ganitong pamamaraan," said Densing.
(There will be a policy shift because we know this way is more effective.)
"Gusto lang nating sabihin na hahawakan pa rin ng pambansang gobyerno ang mandato nito kung saka-sakali na mag-lockdown pa rin nang malakihan kung ito'y kinakailangan. Pero ito'y magiging last resort na natin," continued the DILG undersecretary.
(We just want to say that the national government will still hold the mandate for a wide lockdown, if needed. But this will be our last resort.)
Malacañang spokesman Harry Roque later said this "has been approved as a principle", but its details have yet to be finalized. He said the public should wait for updates from the inter-agency task force on COVID-19.
"Sa mula’t mula po, the science supports and our experience supports the view na mas epektibo po talaga ang localized and granular lockdowns," Roque said in a press briefing.
(From the start, the science supports and our experience supports the view that localized and granular lockdowns are more effective.)
"We are moving towards the direction na dahil ang LGUs naman talaga ang nakakaalam kung nasaan iyong mga areas [na maraming kaso]," he added.
(We are already moving towards the direction because LGUs know which areas have high cases.)
The Philippines has been in varying degrees of lockdown since March 2020. It continues to battle one of Asia's worst COVID-19 outbreaks, recording some 1.8 million infections and around 32,000 deaths so far.
Community transmission of the highly contagious Delta COVID-19 variant is threatening to worsen the outbreak that government hopes to control by vaccinating up to 70 million people before the year ends.