Interior Secretary Eduardo Año on Sunday said the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) is set to send on April 25 to President Rodrigo Duterte what recommendations will be taken after the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) expires by the end of the month, including whether to lift, extend or modify the quarantine.
“We are going to take into consideration whatever recommendation and conclusions that they will be able to present tomorrow… along with several factors, like our health system capacity at the present, looking into the economic factors, and also social factors,” said Ano in an interview over ANC.
“So, we’re thinking of coming up with a recommendation to the president probably, maybe, on the 25th. And then, of course, it’s going to be the president who shall decide whether the ECQ will be lifted, or modified, or partially lifted, or even extended,” he said, adding expanding the ECQ to cover areas outside Luzon is also an option.
Año ruled out, however, a “total lockdown for the entire country,” saying what government intends to do is to implement the existing measure “on a very strict mode.”
According to him, epidemiologists, scientists, mathematicians, and other professionals will present to the IATF on Monday, and their inputs will have a bearing on task force’s decision about the Luzon-wide quarantine.
“(Duterte) said that he wanted to impose it like, a martial law, but we are not going to implement that, actually you know in the whole country. But on those severely affected areas, we may do that,” Ano said.
“…Like a martial law style in those areas where there are rampant violations of the lockdown,” he said.
“What we mean to say (of martial law-like is) more presence, additional presence of uniformed personnel and really of course with the help of local govt officials,” Año said.
Año said severely-affected areas, where there are ongoing local transmissions of the disease, like Cebu City’s Sitio Zapatera, are continuously being looked into.
He warned that with the stricter implementation of the lockdown, authorities are expected to apprehend more violators of quarantine measures, especially those “engaging in other activities like drinking and gambling.”
Año lamented the apparent lack of concern by some people, “as if they just don’t care.”
He said local government units are being encouraged to pass ordinances to punish violators after the lockdown period.
“For the rest of the rest of the year, I think we are going to confront and face this COVID problem until a vaccine is invented,” he said, noting that the new normal will require people to always wear masks, observe physical distancing, and avoid mass gatherings.
The government placed the entire Luzon, home to more than half of the country’s population, on lockdown from March 17 to curb the spread of the new coronavirus disease. As a result, economic activities have also been limited.
Also, he pointed out that the IATF wants a stricter implementation of the enhanced quarantine to make the public “aware on the dangers of this problem.”
Last Thursday, Duterte ordered the military and the police to be ready to enforce social distancing and curfew in the country if people still ignore the rules of the enhanced community quarantine./Stacy Ang