‘Living experiment’: Metro Manila’s quarantine status hangs in the balance

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MANILA, Philippines — Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Wednesday evaded questions on whether Metro Manila will revert to being under more stringent quarantine measures following the unabated surge in the number of coronavirus cases in the capital region.

In an interview with CNN Philippines’ The Source, Roque was asked if he thought there was a big chance that Metro Manila will shift back to the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ), which is a degree less than the most rigid quarantine measures imposed by the government in the early part of the crisis.

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“Metro Manila will be a living experiment and it’s an experiment that we believe we can be successful at, and it will be something that we can be proud of,” Roque said in reply to the question.

According to Roque, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases met on Tuesday to discuss the recommendations for the new quarantine measures to be imposed on August 1.

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President Duterte will have the final say on whether to extend or ease the different quarantine measures placed on Metro Manila and several provinces.

Duterte will announce the quarantine classifications on Thursday, Roque noted.

But when pressed whether Metro Manila will revert to MECQ, Roque cited the metropolis’ improved case doubling rate and the dwindling critical care capacity.

“Dalawa kasi iyong criteria ‘no, the case doubling rate and our case doubling rate is fine – we’re now at 8.9 (days). We actually improved because the higher the case doubling rate is, the longer is the better,” Roque said.

“It’s critical care capacity that’s the problem because ICU beds, we have reached mga around 80 percent. But there are steps that can be done – rationalization of hospital beds, including ICU beds is a solution and if we have to, we will build more ICU beds really, for as long as the case doubling rate is under control,” he said.

Metro Manila has been under general community quarantine (GCQ) for nearly two months now.

It can be recalled that Duterte initially heeded the recommendation of experts from the University of the Philippines to place Metro Manila back under MECQ from July 16 to July 31 amid the continuing increase in coronavirus infections.

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Duterte only changed his mind after COVID-19 response Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez, Jr. and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año “passionately” argued to keep Metro Manila under GCQ and give its mayors a chance to improve on implementing quarantine protocols.

COVID-19 cases in the Philippines continue to surge on a daily which health authorities attributed to the country’s improved testing capacity and the increased contact among the population as a result of the relaxation of quarantine measures to reopen the pandemic-battered economy.

To date, there are 83,673 confirmed cases of COVID-19 nationwide, more than half or 45,969 came from Metro Manila, the epicenter of the contagion in the country, more than double the numbers in July.

Meanwhile, 26,617 patients have so far recovered although 1,947 died.

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