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Metro Manila is Back to MECQ as Duterte Heeds Frontliners' Call for Timeout

Timeout request granted for 15 days.
IMAGE Malacañang
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(UPDATE) Metro Manila and its suburbs will revert to a modified enhanced community quarantine or MECQ for 15 days after President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday heeded the call of medical frontliners who asked for a timeout and a rethink of the government's strategy against COVID-19, his spokesman said.

The MECQ, the second highest in the Philippines' four-step quarantine system will start at midnight Aug. 4. It will also be in effect in Laguna, Rizal, Cavite, Bulacan. The last time it was enforced from May 16-31, quarantine passes were required and though many businesses were allowed to open, they can do so at limited capacity. Manufacturing and processing are can restart at 50% capacity.

"Kung walang tutulong sa bansa at sa mga kababayaan natin, sino maasahan ko? Sino maasahan natin na gumawa ng trabahong ito? 'Wag kayo mawalan ng pag-asa. Nakikita at kausap ko ang iba sa inyo. You stretch your patience and your endurance can also take so much, your fervor. Habaan na lang nyo yung pansensiya ninyo at yung fervor," Duterte said in a midnight address.

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Duterte called on local officials in MECQ areas to strictly enforce pandemic protocols. "Sa Maynila, madaming tao na lumalabas, madaming mahahawa," he said. Authorities are requiring at the minimum: handwashing, physical distancing and wearing of face masks outside the house.

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The rollback to MECQ will in effect stall the reopening of gyms, drive-thru cinemas and grooming services such as nail spas in the capital region. Under guidelines released last week, they could operate only in areas under the two lowest quarantines, GCQ (general community quarantine) and MGCQ (modified general community quarantine).

Since Thursday, confirmed cases have been rising by some 4,000 daily and by Sunday, it was at 103,185. On Friday, Duterte said Metro Manila would remain under GCQ for 15 more days until Aug. 15. By Saturday however, frontliners were calling for a timeout, a 15-day ECQ.

The frontliners raised several points: hospitals are overwhelmed by rising cases, testing and contact tracing operations are failing, safeguards must be strengthened in public transport and in the workplace, the public must comply with COVID-19 protocols such as hand-washing and wearing of face masks, social amelioration or aid must be ensured for those who will stop working during the ECQ period.

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"We re waging a losing battle against COVID-19 and we need to draw up a consplidated, definite plan of action," according to a statement from the Philippine College of Physicians.

Rapid tests have become inappropriate for screening, the frontliners said. A rapid test detects the presence of antibodies in the blood, which is inconclusive. Currently, only the RT-PCR type of test can detect the virus from samples taken from the nose and throat using cotton swabs. An RT-PCR test is more expensive than a rapid test.

In the provinces, suspect cases with mild symptoms are allowed to go home if they pass the rapid test. In some areas, positive cases are allowed to isolate at home despite inadequate facilities, the frontliners said.

The gradual easing of quarantines caused a "progressive decline" in public compliance with face mask wearing, hand-washing and physical distancing. This is what happened in New York, the global epicenter of the disease, the frontliners said.

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Responding to the frontliners, the Department of Health said: "We have heard your call and we are with you in battling the COVID-19 before it lays further waste to the people and to our nation." Without mentioning an ECQ directly, the DOH said: "The time out you have asked for will buy us time to refine and revisit our strategies to meet the evolving nature of this global pandemic."

The DOH said a rapid response team would deployed to prevent the system from being overwhelmed. From Monday, a new system called CODE will "promote preventive behaviors" including house-to-house symptom checks and RT-PCR tests for those with symtoms. With the Department of Labor and Employment, the DOH said there would be active contact tracing in sectors with clusters of infections: construction, technoparks and passenger services.

The DOH said it would be proactive in the implementation of localized lockdownsdevelop and updated strategy in seven days and "advocate for the call for time out" during a meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19.

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The MECQ, the second highest in the Philippines' four-step quarantine system will start at midnight Aug. 4. The last time it was enforced from May 16-31, quarantine passes were required and though many businesses were allowed to open, they can do so at limited capacity. Manufacturing and processing are can restart at 50% capacity.

The rollback to MECQ will in effect stall the reopening of gyms, drive-thru cinemas and grooming services such as nail spas in the capital region. Under guidelines released last week, they could operate only in areas under the two lowest quarantines, GCQ (general community quarantine) and MGCQ (modified general community quarantine).

Since Thursday, confirmed cases have been rising by some 4,000 daily and by Sunday, it was at 103,185. On Friday, Duterte said Metro Manila would remain under GCQ for 15 more days until Aug. 15. By Saturday however, frontliners were calling for a timeout, a 15-day ECQ.

The frontliners raised several points: hospitals are overwhelmed by rising cases, testing and contact tracing operations are failing, safeguards must be strengthened in public transport and in the workplace, the public must comply with COVID-19 protocols such as hand-washing and wearing of face masks, social amelioration or aid must be ensured for those who will stop working during the ECQ period.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

"We are waging a losing battle against COVID-19 and we need to draw up a consplidated, definite plan of action," according to a statement from the Philippine College of Physicians.

Rapid tests have become inappropriate for screening, the frontliners said. A rapid test detects the presence of antibodies in the blood, which is inconclusive. Currently, only the RT-PCR type of test can detect the virus from samples taken from the nose and throat using cotton swabs. An RT-PCR test is more expensive than a rapid test.

In the provinces, suspect cases with mild symptoms are allowed to go home if they pass the rapid test. In some areas, positive cases are allowed to isolate at home despite inadequate facilities, the frontliners said.

The gradual easing of quarantines caused a "progressive decline" in public compliance with face mask wearing, hand-washing and physical distancing. This is what happened in New York, the global epicenter of the disease, the frontliners said.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

Responding to the frontliners, the Department of Health said: "We have heard your call and we are with you in battling the COVID-19 before it lays further waste to the people and to our nation." Without mentioning an ECQ directly, the DOH said: "The time out you have asked for will buy us time to refine and revisit our strategies to meet the evolving nature of this global pandemic."

The DOH said a rapid response team will de deployed to prevent the system from being overwhelmed. From Monday, a new system called CODE will "promote preventive behaviors" including house-to-house symptom checks and RT-PCR tests for those with symtoms. With the Department of Labor and Employment, the DOH said there would be active contact tracing in sectors with clusters of infections: construction, technoparks and passenger services.

The DOH said it would be proactive in the implementation of localized lockdownsdevelop an updated strategy in seven days and "advocate for the call for time out" during a meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19.

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