Health expert says GCQ shift better for Metro Manila

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Residents line up to sign forms as they inquire about the distribution of the second tranche of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) at the Montalban Municipal Hall in Rodriguez, Rizal on Aug. 11, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (UPDATE) – A public health expert on Thursday urged the government to revert Metro Manila's lockdown rule to general community quarantine (GCQ) to keep the economy afloat despite a worrying growth in the number of new infections.

Speaking to ABS-CBN's Teleradyo, Dr. Maricar Limpin, vice president of the Philippine College of Physicians, said she believes the government has recalibrated its response to the pandemic following her group's appeal for a "timeout" to curb the surge in COVID-19 cases.

"I think kailangan na nating matutunan kung paano tayo mabubuhay dito ngayon in the presence of the virus," she said.

"Puwede naman talaga magsama ang kalusugan at saka kabuhayan para medyo ma-open natin ang economy dahil marami sa kababayan natin ang talagang nagpo-problema na pagdating sa pagpapakain ng pamilya. So I think it is now time for us to go back."

The Philippine capital region and its neighboring provinces Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, and Bulacan were placed again on a stricter lockdown from August 4 to 18 after the virus-weary medical community called for help due to increasing coronavirus infection.

President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to announce new lockdown classifications on August 17, his spokesman said Thursday.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque earlier said it is "highly unlikely" for the government to keep Metro Manila and the neighboring economic hubs under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) due to depleting resources.

During the interview, the pulmonologist explained that their appeal for a 2-week breather was aimed at improving the country's response to the pandemic.

"'Yung surge ng mga COVID-19 cases, it is actually a measure na hindi tayo effective doon sa mga ginagawa nating control sa COVID-19 infection. Therefore, we need to look back," she said.

"In a way, secondary outcome lang 'yun sa amin na makahinga, pero in reality, hindi naman kami nakahinga talaga ng mabuti kasi continuous ang pagdating ng pasyente at dinudumog pa rin kami."

Latest data from the Department of Health (DOH) showed 5,644 doctors, nurses and other health care workers have contracted the disease. 

Limpin also said the effects of placing Metro Manila and other provinces to MECQ would be noticed few weeks from now.

"Sa ngayon, we have to remember we can't expect a sudden drop ng kaso ng COVID-19. What we're seeing now is the spread of infection 2 weeks ago. 'Yung effect ng MECQ will be seen 2 or 3 weeks from now," she said.

As the country faces a "new normal," she urged the public to observe minimum health standards such as wearing face masks and face shields in public, observing physical distancing, and frequent handwashing.

To date, the number of coronavirus cases in the Philippines has reached 147,526, with 4,002 new infections reported Thursday.

The nationwide caseload includes 2,426 fatalities, 70,387 recoveries and 74,713 active cases.

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