Lockdown cannot be relaxed amid COVID-19 — Health Secretary Duque



Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has opposed the relaxation of the implementation of stringent measures, including the lifting of the lockdown, against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

“Hindi puwedeng magpaluwag tayo, ganu’n din sa Pilipinas. We cannot relax all the measures laid down and implemented,” said Duque.

At the moment, Duque said they are still looking at the data– the numbers, as he underscored the need to continue watching and monitoring.

He cited the lockdown implementation in China that lasted up to 55 days to control the transmission of the virus.

The Philippines, he said, can learn from specialists from different countries, including China.

He said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) authorized the technical visit of a 12-man team from China who will help the country fight COVID-19 by providing technical advice on epidemic prevention and control and sharing medical treatment experience.

He said the Chinese doctors will guide the Filipino doctors and the technical advisory group of experts and compare notes.

He said the Chinese doctors will share their best practices that can be used, the measures they used to effectively manage every COVID-19 case, and the medicines they tried.

For her part, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the team was expected to arrive on Sunday. The group of doctors and nurses will stay for two weeks to “observe and give recommendations” on such areas as infection prevention and control, critical care and laboratory management, she said.

The Chinese Embassy in Manila said the delegation would be led by Director-General Zheng Huiwen and include physicians from the First Affiliated Hospital of Fujian Medical University, Fujian Provincial Hospital, Fujian University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Fujian Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Their expertise covers critical care medicine, infectious disease control, internal medicine and clinical integration of traditional Chinese and Western medicine.
Lab visits

She said the group would visit the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa City, San Lazaro Hospital in Manila and the Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City.

Duque also said the DOH needs to conduct more testing to have an accurate picture of the COVID-19 situation in the Philippines.

Earlier, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., chief implementer of the national plan against COVID-19, said they are still studying if the enhanced community quarantine will be extended.

He noted that the lockdown did something good as it slowed down the spread ng virus.

“With that, we see a possibility of having the 15 more days,” Galvez said.

But Galvez also admitted it is Premature to majean announce since they need to involve involve our scientists, our doctors and specialists looking at the na treference model of other countries.

“It is difficult to rush to normalcy and the go back to the lockdown. There were countries, which had two or three lockdowns because they relaxed.The surge of new cases returned. Pag-aaralan natin na isang bagsak na lang na ma-extend natin ng 15 days para ma-sustain natin ‘yung magandang nagawa ng lockdown,”explained Galvez.

The enhanced community quarantine in the entire Luzon took effect on March 17. President Rodrigo Duterte said the quarantine period would last until April 14.

IATF spokesperson and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the government has set parameters on whether the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine will be lifted or extended.

“The following parameters proposed by the IATF sub-technical working group (TWG) on Data Analytics for deciding on the total or partial lifting, or the possible extension of the Enhanced Communiity )ECQ) in Luzon are hereby adopted,” Nograles said. He said the parameters are as follows:
• Trends in the COVID-19 epidemiological curve, which include, among others, the doubling time, acceleration, or deceleration of new cases
• Capacity of the health care system, which includes, among others, the number and availability of quarantine, isolation, and treatment facilities; the capability to mount contact tracing; availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to frontliners, and the testing capacity of the country
• Social factors
• Economic factors
• Security factors

“For this purpose, the Department of Health (DOH) is hereby directed to convene all concerned agencies and to finalize the aggregation and analysis of all relevant data applicable to the contained area, subject to the deliberation of the IATF and final determination by the President,” the Cabinet official said.

“Provided, that the same sub-TWG is likewise directed to apply said parameters and come up with recommendations with regard to the possible implementation of a general or enhanced community quarantine in localities in the Visayas and Mindanao,” he said.

Takeshi Kasai, Western Pacific regional director for the World Health Organization had also cautioned against rushing to end the quarantine and halt other public health regulations against COVID-19.

“We may have to peel one by one and not just immediately lift those public health measures which were bundled with the lockdown to balance and control the disease and to bring society back to normal,” he said./Stacy Ang

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