A new curfew in the National Capital Region will be imposed starting May 1, which will be three hours shorter than the previous 8 pm to 5 am stretch – this time it will be 10 pm to 4 am – after authorities noted a significant drop in COVID cases in the metropolis.
Members of the Metro Manila Council – a total of 17 – agreed and signed a resolution last week imposing the standard and unified curfew hours following a pronounced drop of COVID-19 cases in NCR.
Some of the local executives said the adjustment would help businesses to recoup losses during the pandemic.
They have noted that the health crisis has affected many business establishments, particularly those in the food and retail industries
MMC head and concurrent Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Benjamin Abalos Jr., meanwhile, said the council would defer to the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte on the next quarantine status for Metro Manila starting May 1.
Read his lips: “The MMC just recommends to the IATF. Hence, it is within the purview of President Rodrigo Duterte to decide on the next NCR status.” He was referring to the Inter-Agency Task Force of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
The recommended “flexible MECQ” is essentially an extension of the currently-imposed lockdown protocol but with additional businesses allowed to open.
To sustain the gains in the healthcare system amid the pandemic, Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega, the country’s “treatment czar,” supported the recommendation for an extended MECQ in Metro Manila after April 30.
Vega feared that the government might lose the “gains” or adjustments in the healthcare system if the quarantine protocols would be relaxed.
Vega also said they were able to increase the intensive care unit beds in Metro Manila from 871 to 931 beds, adding the treatment and hospital facilities are not yet ready for general community quarantine as the government’s expansion of the healthcare system was still underway.
According to Abalos, the Metro Manila mayors voted on three proposed quarantine classifications: enhanced community quarantine, modified enhanced community quarantine and what they called “hybrid” or “flex” modified enhanced community quarantine with additional economic and business activities to be classified and approved by the Department of Trade and Industry.
The third option, hybrid or flex MECQ, was proposed by Department of Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.
Abalos explained the hybrid MECQ was intended to allay the fear of health workers for a possible surge again. “That’s why we want to do it gradually. By opening some businesses, we are also addressing the dilemma and hunger of those who lost their jobs.”
“The recommendation was based on data presented by health experts and also from NEDA (National Economic and Development Authority) as presented by Secretary Karl Chua.
Through hybrid MECQ, authorities hope to hit the middle ground although there will still be strict border controls to avoid transmission, but at the same time there will also be additional economic activities.
The NCR Plus bubble, composed of Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal, has been placed on MECQ since April 12 until today following a two-week return to the strictest lockdown level.
But it is greater than likely that MECQ will be extended by the President – how many days or weeks will be known today.
The independent OCTA Research Group had recommended extending the MECQ in the NCR bubble to maintain a downward trend in COVID-19 infections.
OCTA’s Dr. Guido David said, in a public briefing, the reproduction rate of COVID-19 or the number of people infected by a patient, has gone down to 0.85.
“The numbers are trending in the right direction,” said David, a mathematics professor.
An extension of MECQ will allow the government to hire more contact-tracers and health workers, while opening up more health facilities, said OCTA Research fellow Ranjit Rye.
“Once we have 1 or 2 weeks of this, we will have a more solid foundation to open up to GCQ, solid enough for us to sustain for the next 3, 4 months. It will coincide with the arrival of our vaccines. The position of OCTA is we really cannot transition to GCQ as we speak because our trend could reverse,” he added.
Meanwhile, the country in mid week logged 6,895 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 1,020,495, while death toll breached 17,000 as 115 new fatalities were reported, bringing the total to 17,031.
Shorter curfew or not, the people still must have discipline in their pockets to check infections.