PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday night, August 2, 2020, approved the recommendation to escalate quarantine restrictions and place Metro Manila and four provinces under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ), two months after easing restrictions in the capital region.
The four provinces, which will be under MECQ until August 15 along with Metro Manila, are Bulacan in Central Luzon, and Cavite, Laguna and Rizal in Calabarzon.
Under MECQ, operations of rail systems, buses, taxi and tricycles are suspended based on Department of Transportation (DOTr) guidelines.
Public shuttles are allowed for frontline workers or those who will return to work in allowed industries while company shuttles. Private vehicles are also allowed with limited passengers.
Some business establishments and government offices other than those engaged in essential goods and services are allowed to operate at limited capacity.
Duterte gave the approval Sunday night, but not before telling the medical community not to “demean” the government.
He alternately challenged them to make good their threat to stage a “revolution” and appealed to them to be patient and
MECQ is less restrictive than the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) that the Philippine College of Physicians and more than 80 other medical societies asked for to allow the healthcare systems to cope with the rising cases of infection.
Under ECQ, all public transport systems are suspended, non-essential businesses are closed and majority of the population are required to stay at home.
Duterte said the government can no longer afford to impose ECQ again.
“Problem is, wala na tayong pera. I cannot give food anymore and money to people,” Duterte said.
The government first distributed P5,000 to P8,000 cash assistance to 18 million low-income families in areas under ECQ. For the second tranche, a total of 23 million families received the same amount.
But Duterte approved the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to provide allowances to private healthcare workers, life insurance, accommodation, transport and frequent testing for Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
Duterte said the executive will strongly recommend the inclusion of these benefits in the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, which Is still pending in Congress.
“We are ready to consider ‘tong stipend or allowances or pay. Give us time, we will make the report Sana masali ‘to sa second Bayanihan (law). Kung masali to, ibibigay ko sa inyo ahora mismo,” Duterte said.
The President also approved the suggestion of Secretary Carlito Galvez, chief implementer of the National Task Force (NTF) Against Covid-19, to provide cash assistance of P10,000 each to around 5,000 healthcare workers who got infected and manifested mild symptoms of Covid-19.
Galvez noted that under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, healthcare workers who died were provided with P1 million assistance while those who were in critical or severe condition were given P100,000.
The President also directed Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, chairperson of the NTF, to mobilize all doctors and nurses from the uniformed forces as well as all others who can help.
Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who chairs IATF, said the benefits were among the IATF’s recommendations that were approved during their meeting Saturday afternoon, a few hours after the medical community aired their distress call and appeal for time-out.
Duque said they came up with a seven-point response:
Hiring of additional healthcare workers, form healthcare workers reserve force;
Additional benefits for healthcare workers – P10,000 risk allowance and life insurance, free accommodations and transportation, frequent testing of healthcare workers;
Use of quarantine passes;
Intensify Oplan Kalinga to put those found positie for the virus in quarantine and isolation;
Intensify street enforcement of minimum health standards and distribution of cloth masks;
Use of RT-PCR as gold standard in detecting the virus; and
Revert to modified enhanced community quarantine for two weeks until August 15 in Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal.
Metro Manila, which constitutes the National Capital Region (NCR), has consistently accounted for the highest number of new coronavirus infections per day.
In the last three days, new cases in NCR had exceeded 2,000 per day. Based on the Department of Health (DOH) case bulletins, NCR cases reached 2,267 on July 31, 2,667 on August 1, and 2,737 on August 2.
The provinces of Cavite, Laguna and Rizal in Calabarzon region have also been consistently in the top five areas, along with Cebu, with the highest number of new cases daily. (Marites Villamor-Ilano/SunStar Philippines)