MANILA – The “total health” of the nation will be the top consideration in deciding whether to extend the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) placed in Metro Manila and four nearby provinces beyond April 4, Malacañang said on Monday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the proposal to extend the week-long ECQ is still under discussion among members of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).
He said there would need to be a delicate balance act between curbing the spike in Covid-19 cases and preventing more Filipinos from going hungry and losing jobs.
“Maselan po talaga iyong decision making, hindi naman po pupuwede na sa pagnanais natin na mapabagal talaga ang Covid-19, mas marami naman ang mamatay dahil sa kagutuman at iba pang mga dahilan bukod po sa Covid-19. Total health po ang ating target (It will be a delicate decision-making process because we can’t just aim to slow down the spread of Covid-19 when others die of hunger and other non-Covid-19 diseases. The nation’s total health is our target),” he said in a Palace press briefing.
The national government’s ability to provide cash aid, he said, will also be among the considerations on deciding whether to extend the week-long ECQ.
Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado said the government is eyeing the distribution of one-time cash aid to around 22.9 million beneficiaries in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal.
The potential beneficiaries account for 80 percent of the low-income households in Metro Manila and four nearby provinces placed under ECQ.
“Titingnan din po natin siyempre iyong kakayahan na magbigay pa nang malawakang assistance kasi napakadami pong bibigyan ng assistance (Of course we also need to see our ability to provide large-scale assistance because there would be a lot of people that would be given assistance),” Roque said.
In an interview over ANC’s Headstart, Roque said the national government reimposed the ECQ as a “last resort” to curb the spike in Covid-19 cases and reduce the strain on the country’s healthcare system.
“We resort to ECQ as an absolute last resort where it appears inevitable that the hospitals will be overwhelmed,” he said.
However, Roque admitted that a week-long ECQ will not be enough to continuously bring Covid-19 cases down.
“Hindi masyado natin mapabababa rin ang numero ng mga kaso maski pa tayo po’y mag-extend ng ECQ. Kaya binabalanse po natin ngayon iyan, kinukonsidera natin iyong total health ng ating mga kababayan, iyong cost-benefit analysis in terms of iyong mga karagdagang Pilipinong magugutom at mamamatay sa iba pang mga dahilan bukod po sa Covid-19 (We won’t be able to bring down our numbers even we extend out ECQ. That’s why we are trying to strike a balance, we are considering the total health of the nation, the cost-benefit analysis in terms of more Filipinos dying of hunger and other non-Covid-19 diseases),” he said.
Citing government data, Roque said the week-long ECQ is expected to keep Covid-19 cases in Metro Manila at 500,000 to 600,000 by April 18.
Covid-19 cases in Metro Manila are currently over 300,000. (PNA)