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Will ECQ Be Retained, Relaxed, or Lifted? We Might Have to Wait Until April 30 to Find Out

One thing that isn't on the table: total lockdown.
IMAGE WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
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In a press conference today, April 21, new presidential spokesperson Harry Roque settled the fears in everyone’s mind: “Walang nag-rekomenda ng total lockdown.”

Unverified rumors have been floating around that the President Rodrigo Duterte will be implementing “total lockdown” on the entire island of Luzon as we’re still far from flattening the curve, but according to Roque, “total lockdown” is off the table as no member of the Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19 has recommended the severe option to President Duterte.

So what is on the table? According to Roque in his media briefing, we are left with three options so far:

1| Maintain or extend enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon

2| Relax ECQ and transition to a “modified community quarantine,” focusing on locations with confirmed COVID-19 cases

3| Lift ECQ entirely

Option three brings with it the possibility of a second surge, so we’re left with the first two. After a five-hour IATF meeting last night, Duterte still hasn’t come to a final decision on the matter, and he could decide anytime between now and April 30.

“It’s an open-ended deadline,” said Roque when asked when Duterte will make his decision. “He can decide today or by April 30.”

Option one would see our lives continuing as they are in isolation at home, and seems like the most viable and fastest way to flatten the curve, but the threat of hunger is growing in everyone’s mind and the poorest Filipinos are barely getting by.

“'Yung ating ECQ mula March ay medyo epektibo. Kapag ito ay tinigil natin, tataas ulit ang cases, pero kapag tinuloy bababa ito. Pero hindi pwedeng ganoon dahil magugutom ang mga tao,” said UP professor Dr. Mahar Lagmay, one of the experts advising the IATF. “Hinahanap natin ang gradual relaxation ng ECQ kung saan mapapayagan na hindi gaano kalawak ang pag-spread ng virus at kakayanin ng ating mga ospital.

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A modified version would still see an increase in cases but without overwhelming our healthcare system’s capacity and forcing people to live under ECQ. Lagmay also suggested that schools stay closed until December, as schools could easily spread the virus among students. Suspending schools could substantially decrease the spread of infection, said Lagmay.

Whatever Duterte decides, one thing is certain: There’s no going back to “normal” after this. Quarantine might still be in effect, albeit a relaxed version, but we doubt we’ll be allowed back in bars or concerts anytime soon. Social distancing is now the norm.

Unless a Filipino can come up with a vaccine by April 30 and rake in Duterte’s P10 million bounty money.

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Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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