Gov’t ready to reimpose ECQ in Metro Manila, other provinces if needed — task force adviser

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 12)— The government would be ready to reimpose stricter quarantine measures in Metro Manila and other provinces if the need arises, an adviser to the COVID-19 national task force stressed on Monday.

Dr. Ted Herbosa told CNN Philippines’ The Source that the decision to shift the NCR Plus — Metro Manila, Rizal, Bulacan, Cavite, and Laguna — to a more relaxed modified enhanced community quarantine is “not fixed.”

“Like in any disaster or chaos, you are ready to actually move back to a stricter ECQ,” Herbosa said. “Remember, modified ECQ is still an ECQ. It’s still an ECQ, we just modify it with lesser restrictions.”

The NCR Plus will ease to MECQ until April 30, Malacañang announced on Sunday. The provinces of Quirino and Abra, and Santiago City in Isabela were also placed under the same form of lockdown.

READ: MECQ guidelines: What we know so far

The following areas were meanwhile placed under general community quarantine: Cordillera Administrative Region, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Batangas, Quezon, Tacloban City, Iligan City, Davao City, and Lanao del Sur.

The rest of the country will be under the modified GCQ.

Asked about the basis of the decision, Herbosa said the Inter-Agency Task Force made a “balancing act” and considered data from both angles of the health and economic sectors.

“When I looked at the minutes of that discussion, I saw the data being presented by our losses in terms of economics,” Herbosa noted. “But I also saw that the health sector was also gaining in terms of what needed to be done.”

Herbosa particularly cited the reopening of more isolation facilities for COVID-19 patients in the NCR Plus. He said the government has ramped up healthcare capacity in the bubble, with more than 3,000 additional beds for patients.

He added that while there’s also room for improvement in the country’s current COVID-19 testing capacity, the government also ramped up this protocol by purchasing antigen tests, which the Health Department said can be used as a stand-alone test in areas with outbreaks.

RELATED: First batch of gov't procured antigen test kits arrives in PH

Coronavirus infections in the Philippines reached 864,868 on Sunday, with the DOH logging 11,681 new cases. Of the total tally, 146,519 or 16.9% are active cases.