Lawmaker wants longer Luzon lockdown to beat coronavirus disease

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A makeshift barricade blocks a street from outsiders to protect a neighborhood from the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Manila, March 23, 2020. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters

MANILA – A lawmaker on Wednesday urged the government to extend the month-long lockdown of Metro Manila and Luzon, home to about half of the country's 100 million people, to contain the coronavirus pandemic. 

Lifting the quarantine on April 12, as initially planned, could lead to a resurgence of the virus in urban centers, said Caloocan City 2nd District Rep. Edgar Erice. 
“I have been to more than a hundred villages in my city the past 2 weeks and I am afraid that if COVID-19 reach[es] these areas, all hell will break loose,” he said. 

The lawmaker urged local governments to funnel funds for community development and special activities into stockpiling and food and medical supplies. 

“These are the least we can do to protect our citizenry as we are at war against a very invisible powerful enemy,” he said. 

A technical working group led by the Department of Health will formulate recommendations for the possible lifting or extension of the month-long Luzon lockdown, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles earlier said.

The group, under the government inter-agency task force on COVID-19, will "finalize the parameters" that will serve as a guide for the possible lifting or extension of the enhanced community quarantine.

But even before mulling over an extension of the lockdown, the government "should make a report on the real status of the COVID-19 epidemic," said House Deputy Minority Leader Carlos Zarate. 

Without mass testing for the disease, the country "will just be shooting blind or shooting an invisible enemy in the dark… at the detriment of our people, the poor especially, who are now also staggering from the effects of lack of food and other basic necessities," the Bayan Muna party-list representative said. 

The Philippines as of Tuesday confirmed 88 deaths out of its total 2,084 cases of the novel coronavirus. The tally could continue to climb following the recent delivery of test kits and the accreditation of additional screening laboratories, said the health department. 

— With a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News 

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