IATF studying return to ‘new normal’ ‪after April 30‬

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 14) — The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases said Tuesday it is discussing what measures it will take and implement ‪after April 30‬, the expected end-date of the enhanced community quarantine over Luzon.

“Tuloy tuloy po ang discussions namin sa IATF tungkol sa transition [Our discussion on IATF on transition is ongoing],” task force spokesman Karlo Nograles said in a televised briefing, when asked to comment on President Rodrigo Duterte’s vow to lift the quarantine in Luzon once an antibody treatment against the new coronavirus becomes available in the market.

‪READ: Duterte will lift quarantine once antibody treatment against COVID-19 is available

Nograles, however, did not say whether or not the quarantine will be lifted.

The official said they will identify what industries could be allowed to operate or who among the labor force could get back to work.

​A local business group said they are looking for signs to show that COVID-19 infections are slowing before they decide to reopen more establishments, including factories.

"Sa ngayong complete lockdown, mabigat sa mga arawang (empleyado) na no-work, no-pay... Hopefully hindi natin kailangang i-extend ang ECQ, but there [will be] a gradual normalization," Philippine Charmber of Commerce and Industry president emeritus George Barcelon said during the government's Laging Handa briefing.

[Translation: Now that we're on complete lockdown, it's very harsh for employees on a no-work, no-pay basis... Hopefully we don't have to extend, the quarantine, but there will be a gradual normalization.]

"Kung nakita natin na we are flattening the curve [If we see that we are flattening the curve], then it gives us the confidence to start gradually reviving business operations," he added.

The private sector has been calling for a "modified" quarantine rather than the current lockdown, where barangays or areas with limited infections can be allowed to return to work — a suggestion which has been taken up with President Rodrigo Duterte, Barcelon said. He noted that rapid tests are needed to identify whether specific communities have few or numerous infections.

Businesses allowed to reopen must still observe proper hand washing and hygiene, as well as social distancing protocols, the industry official said.

The National Economic and Development Authority has been tasked to craft policies defining the "new normal," which will guide lifestyles and work arrangements should the strict stay-at-home measures be lifted. Undersecretary Rosemarie Edillon said the economy may contract this year as the global pandemic halts economic activity.

Meanwhile, Nograles said they are thinking of what to do with the public transportation system within northern Philippines, which the government suspended since March 17. This is in line with the Luzon-wide quarantine, which aims to restrict the movement of the public to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease. This excludes those rendering vital services and going out for essentials.

After they finalize the gradual recovery from the crisis brought by coronavirus disease, the task force “will set very stringent guidelines on what the new normal is,” Nograles said.

He earlier said the "new normal" involves following physical distancing rules and practicing good hygiene.

READ: Community quarantine helped slow down COVID-19 spread, new study shows

COVID-19 is a disease caused by a coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2, which is genetically related to the virus that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.