Some senators favored the implementation of modified confinement measures after the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) expires on April 30 in order to balance health and economic interests during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
“My suggestion is a modified ECQ that is still compliant with social distancing, para mai-balanse ang isyu ng pampublikong kalusugan sa epekto sa ekonomiya ng bansa,” Senator Panfilo Lacson said.
“Kulang na kulang ang napapasailalim sa tests ng COVID-19 kaya hindi natin alam kung ano ang totoong rate ng infection involving the entire population. Ito na nga ang isa sa marami at malaking pagkukulang ni Secretary [Francisco] Duque,” he added.
Lacson said an economic risk assessment should be done alongside the implementation of a decentralized COVID-19 testing system through public-private collaborations.
“Kung hindi natin paghahandaan ngayon pa lang ang post COVID-19 scenario at maghahabol pa lang tayo ‘pag nandiyan na ang recession, malamang sa gutom naman mamatay ang marami nating kababayan,” Lacson said.
For his part, Senator Sonny Angara said preparations must be done at the local government level if the quarantine protocols will be modified.
“We should do things gradually to prevent any large scale outbreaks; allow certain more essential services and industries to operate—some public transport, some stores and smaller establishments but with strict guidelines,” Angara said.
Senator Joel Villanueva said lifting quarantine protocols in areas which will be assessed to be far from having a COVID-19 outbreak.
“We can start operating some industries that are big economic contributors like construction and manufacturing but with regular randomized testing of workers aside from the social distancing, sanitizing and face mask protocols,” Villanueva added.
Other establishments like malls and schools shall remain closed, said Villanueva.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said that the caveats for modifying or lifting the ECQ are the go signal from medical experts, increased testing capacity of up to 20,000 tests per day, and a flattened COVID-19 curve which will be determined by having lower number of new cases and higher number of recoveries.
Local government units shall test all suspected and probable cases of COVID-19 and quarantine those who will test positive, he said.
Meanwhile, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said that an extension of the ECQ is likely after April 30 if mass testing coverage will not be improved.
“Unless we are to undertake mass testing asap, a possible extension of the ECQ is looming especially in areas where contamination because of thick population is present. But then, it’s just a thought as of now,” he said.
Malacanang said President Rodrigo Duterte wants to have a final decision this week on whether to extend or lift the ECQ over Luzon which is set to last until April 30./Stacy Ang