ECQ extension eyed

The government will “seriously” consider extending the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the National Capital Region (NCR) and four nearby provinces if cases of Covid-19 will not go down, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said.

A policeman checks the identity document of a motorist at a quarantine checkpoint along a highway in Cainta town, boundary between Rizal province and suburban Manila on March 29, 2021, on day one of government’s imposing stricker lockdown, as hospitals in the capital struggle to cope with a surge in coronavirus infections. (Photo by Jam STA ROSA / AFP

“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 (We are open to the recommendation of our experts to extend by 14 days because they’re saying the inoculation period of the virus is 14 days),” Galvez, National Task Force Against Covid-19 (NTF) chief implementer, said.

President Rodrigo Duterte imposed ECQ in Metro Manila, Rizal, Bulacan, Laguna and Cavite for a week, or until April 4.

Galvez said that if infections continue to rise, “it means that the intervention that we are having, kailangan makumpleto po natin (it means that the intervention that we are having, we must complete it).”

The Department of Health has recommended the extension of ECQ for another week.
On Wednesday, NTF medical adviser Ted Herbosa stressed the need to extend the implementation of a strict lockdown in the NCR and four provinces.

He warned that opening up the economy after April 4 might lead to more infections and hospitals might no longer be able to cope.

“Puno ang mga ospital; kapag nag-open up tayo siguro dadami pa iyong kaso, baka hindi maka-adapt iyong ating mga local hospitals at saka mga quarantine facility (Hospitals are full; if we will open up, cases may surge further, and hospitals and quarantine facilities may not be able to adapt),” he said.

Herbosa said hospitals in the NCR, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal or the so-called NCR Plus have reached their full capacity.

He said the government needs to provide options to increase the hospital bed capacity and reduce transmission to control the surge.

“We can see not only in numbers but in actual situation na naghihintay iyong mga positive case sa emergency room, hindi makahanap at hindi matanggap dahil puno na iyong mga hospitals natin sa NCR Plus (there are patients waiting in the emergency room, they cannot be admitted because hospitals are full),” Herbosa said.

“As long as may mga pasyenteng positive na naghihingalo, hindi maipasok sa ospital, may problema pa tayo (As long as we have positive patients who are dying, who could not be admitted in hospitals, we have a problem),” he added.

No choice

Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go said that members of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID) will meet on Saturday to assess the situation and submit a recommendation to the President.

The senator urged task force members to thoroughly study the situation.

“Sikapin nating hindi na sana habaan pa ang ECQ dahil malaking dagok ito sa kabuhayan ng mga Pilipino. Pero kung patuloy pa rin ang pagtaas ng kaso, wala tayong choice kundi maghigpit pa rin dahil babagsak naman ang ating health system kapag mapuno pa lalo ang mga ospital (We should try not to extend the ECQ because it has a huge impact on the livelihood of Filipinos. However, if cases continue to rise, we have no choice but to continue with the lockdown because our health system might collapse),” he said.

The President is expected to decide on Saturday whether or not to extend the implementation of an ECQ in the mentioned areas.

Low death rate

Vergeire on Wednesday said that while active Covid-19 cases surged to 130,245, the country managed to keep its death rate low.

Her statement was buttressed by infectious diseases specialist Dr. Edsel Maurice Salvana, who said that the Philippines’ 1.8-percent case fatality rate is one of the lowest in the world.

Salvana, however, admitted that hospitals were swamped, and patients were dying in emergency rooms.

The situation was highlighted by the death of popular singer Claire de la Fuente, who reportedly stayed for days in a tent while waiting to be admitted in a hospital in Las Piñas City.

As of March 31, the country posted 747,288 total number of Covid-19 cases, of which 130,245 are active. The figures are said to be the highest in the Southeast Asian region and the fourth highest in Asia.

“Ang pinakaimportante po, tignan po natin yung mga namamatay sa ating bansa, ang case fatality rate is still below 2 percent, below the global average of 2.2 percent, at ‘yan po ay isang napakahalagang bagay para sa atin (What is important is that case fatality rate is still below 2 percent, below the global average of 2.2 percent, and that is the most important),” Vergeire told reporters.

She said that while the country’s Covid response is “not perfect,” as long as the number of cases are being managed and Covid deaths remain low, it can weather the surge.