MANILA - As frontliners appealed for the government to revert Metro Manila under strict lockdown amid the rise in COVID-19 cases in the metropolis, Malacañang on Saturday said such measures have already "served their purpose."
In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that while they welcome the appeal of the frontliners, he added that there is a need to "intensify other strategies" as the government sought to balance economic and health activities in the country.
This, for example, includes implementing localized lockdowns in barangays where 80 percent of cases are located.
"The strict lockdown in Metro Manila has served its purpose, and we need to intensify other strategies. It is for this reason that the local government units (LGUs) of Metro Manila has been directed to implement a strict localized lockdown/enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in barangays where 80 percent of cases are located and the publication of these barangays," Roque said in a statement.
Roque also said LGUs must strictly impose minimum health standards and other health protocols such as massive targeted testing, among others. Government is also "scaling up hospital capacity" as they increase beds for COVID-19 patients and hire more medical practitioners.
In a press conference Saturday, health workers urged the government to give them at least 2 weeks of "breathing space" by again imposing the enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila, as they get overwhelmed over the surge in COVID-19 cases.
They warned that hospitals were at a breaking point, with increasing admissions of COVID-19 cases while the facilities are understaffed and health workers are also contracting the disease.
“We’re waging a losing battle against COVID-19 and we need to draw up a consolidated, definitive plan of action,” said a letter addressed to President Rodrigo Duterte and read by Philippine Medical Association (PMA) president Dr. Jose Santiago in an online press conference headed by the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) on Saturday.
On Friday, over 4,000 cases of the coronavirus, another single-day record, was reported. COVID-19 cases in the country, mostly in Metro Manila, surged this month as government relaxed quarantine restrictions in a bid to reopen the economy.
The government recently extended the general community quarantine in the capital region until August 15, a move which Roque said was "a subject of debate and discussion.
In a separate statement, the Department of Health said that while it supports the call of the frontliners in ensuring appropriate implementation of community quarantines in the metropolis, they stressed that the public also has a role in mitigating the number of patients needing health care amid the pandemic.
"It is also the duty of every citizen to ensure that our health system is not overwhelmed," they said.
The DOH also said it is "in dialogue" with medical frontliners to discuss other steps in solving the pandemic while "striking a balance" with other factors.
"We welcome this opportunity to continuously work with the medical societies and our health care workers on a united and strategic course of action to win the battle versus this pandemic. Rest assured that DOH is leading in working together with the other agencies in supporting the health care workers and our plight during this situation," it said in the statement.
"We are currently in dialogue with our medical frontliners to discuss the best steps forward, and in so doing we will ensure to strike a balance among all the important factors that we have to take into account," the added.