Extending the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila and its neighboring provinces beyond April 4 can further reduce the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), an official of the National Task Force (NTF) Against Covid-19 said on Wednesday.
“Kung ako ang tatanungin, ‘yung syempre ang health side, maganda tuloy-tuloy. In fact, baka more than one week pa nga hanggang humaba yung reproduction number (If you ask me, of course, on the health side, it would be good to extend it, in fact, by more than one week until the reproduction number slows down),” NTF medical adviser Dr. Teddy Herbosa said in an interview at the Laging Handa press briefing.
Herbosa, however, said the imposed lockdown must still be accompanied by continuous pandemic response, such as testing, isolation, and contact tracing.
“Yung ECQ, syempre pag pinahaba mo yan mababawasan talaga yung paghawa-hawa ng ating mga kababayan sa sakit na ito, pero dapat kasabay ito ng public health measures (Extending the EQC will reduce the disease transmission among people but it has to be accompanied by other public health measures),” he said. “Kaming mga doktor, siyempre ang gusto namin ay huminto ang epidemya o yung pagkalat ng nakakahawang sakit na Covid-19 (We doctors, of course, want a stop to the epidemic or the spread of this contagious disease of Covid-19).”
Herbosa, however, acknowledged that the lockdown imposed last year had greatly affected the economy and restricted movement.
He noted that extending the ECQ or not would be a tough call for the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).
The IATF’s technical experts on health and epidemic, alongside experts on economics and social services, are expected to tackle any possible extension of the ECQ in the National Capital Region (NCR) Plus bubble.
“Mabigat ang desisyon and I do hope matulungan sila at maka-come up sila ng magandang solusyon na magba-balance ng lahat ng factors na ito (It would be a difficult decision and I do hope they could be helped and come up with a good solution that would balance all these factors),” Herbosa said.
Various hospitals in Metro Manila and other quarantine facilities managed by local government units (LGUs) have already reached their full-bed capacity for Covid-19.
He warned that the already crowded hospitals might no longer be able to handle another surge should the lockdown be lifted.
“Puno ang mga ospital, kapag nag-open up tayo, siguro dadami pa ‘yung kaso baka hindi maka-adapt yung ating local hospitals at saka mga quarantine facility (Hospitals are fully loaded. If we open up, the cases might spike, and local hospitals and quarantine facilities might not be able to adapt),” Herbosa said.
Metro Manila and the provinces of Laguna, Bulacan, Cavite, and Rizal are under a week-long ECQ until April 4.
On Tuesday, NTF chief implementer and vaccine czar, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., said they would consider the possible extension of the ECQ in Metro Manila and nearby provinces should there be a steep increase in coronavirus cases despite the reimposition of the ECQ.
“We are open to the recommendation of our experts na i-extend natin ng 14 days kasi iyon ang sinasabi nga nila na iyong inoculation period noong virus is 14 days, so isa pa rin pong open na recommendations ng mga expert po natin (We are open to the recommendation of our experts to extend the ECQ for another 14 days because they say the inoculation period of the virus is within 14 days, so we are open to the recommendations of our experts),” Galvez said. The NTF, which implements the IATF’s health policies and safety guidelines, is composed of three clusters on health response, vaccine, and economics.