MANILA - Extending the modified enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila and nearby provinces is a "delicate balance" on protecting public health and saving the economy, Malacañang said Monday following calls to keep the stricter lockdown until the end of the month.
Over the weekend, a former adviser to the government task force on pandemic response, Dr. Tony Leachon, said a "one time, big time" lockdown is needed to address the COVID-19 crisis as infections continued to surge in the country.
"It entails a delicate balancing of protecting and saving people's health, to protecting and saving the economic health of the nation," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.
Roque added the Palace recognizes that the effects of the stricter lockdown would be felt two to three weeks after the MECQ policy expires.
"The incubation period for COVID-19, according to health experts, is 14 days so we just have to wait for that time to ascertain the health impact of the MECQ classification," he said.
The capital region along with neighboring provinces Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite, and Rizal will remain under MECQ until Aug. 18 after President Rodrigo Duterte heeded the call of exhausted health workers for a "time out" as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
Earlier, the Palace mouthpiece said the country cannot stand another lockdown as the economy shrunk by 16.5 percent in the second quarter plunging into recession.
The 16.5 percent contraction--which wiped out the gains from the administration of late President Cory Aquino up to her son, former President Noynoy Aquino--was "much worse" than government economists expected, bringing the country into recession again in nearly 30 years.
Major parts of the Philippines were placed on quarantine since mid-March to curb the spread of COVID-19, which was first recorded in the country on Jan. 30 in a Chinese woman who arrived from the Chinese city of Wuhan where the disease is believed to have first emerged.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who heads the pandemic response implementing task force, said Monday that Metro Manila appears "ready" to loosen its coronavirus lockdown after the MECQ policy expires on Aug. 18.
“We cannot continue with the MECQ kasi nga alam na natin kung nasaan iyong areas na may infection. Iyon ang tutukan natin so that the others can go to work,” he said.
(We already know the areas with infection. We will focus on those.)
As of Sunday, the Philippines has 129,913 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 67,673 recoveries and 2,270 deaths. The country is leading in Southeast Asia in the cumulative case tally, as well as in the number of active infections.