NCR mayor bares details of pilot granular lockdown, says it could work if done meticulously

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 6) — A local chief executive gave details on the granular lockdowns to be implemented in Metro Manila for three weeks to replace region-wide hard lockdowns.

San Juan City Mayor Francis Zamora said the National Capital Region will be placed under a relaxed general community quarantine from Sept. 8 to 30. However, certain areas like streets, compounds, or households recording a spike in COVID-19 cases will be placed under lockdown.

Unlike the blanket restrictions enforced over the past year, Zamora told CNN Philippines that officials will resort to specific "pocket area" lockdowns to prevent the spread of infection without disrupting livelihood and business operations.

He said the operating capacity of businesses allowed to open under GCQ will depend on alert levels, as defined by the Department of Health based on case count, hospital bed occupancy rate, and the presence of the more transmissible Delta coronavirus variant.

Zamora said mayors will closely monitor establishments referred to as 3Cs: closed areas, crowded areas, and activities requiring close contact.

For areas under Alert Level 4, these 3Cs will not be allowed to operate. A capacity of 30% will be allowed for areas under Alert Level 3, while 50% capacity will be authorized for areas under Alert Level 2. For those under Alert Level 1, all restrictions will be lifted.

The DOH announced on Monday that 16 of the 17 localities in Metro Manila are under Alert Level 4, while the City of Manila is under Alert Level 3 since it has a slightly lower hospital bed occupancy rate. The entire region is classified as "high risk" when it comes to COVID-19 cases.

The Inter-Agency Task Force has yet to issue the final guidelines for the implementation of the granular lockdowns.

Will it be effective?

Zamora said he believes imposing granular lockdowns instead of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) could be effective in bringing down COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila if it is carried out meticulously by local chief executives.

He added that Metro Manila mayors have extensive experience in executing these types of lockdowns.

"Most of Metro Manila LGUs also do this," he said in an interview with CNN Philippines' New Day.

"What you really need is to be very meticulous and very detailed in implementing it," he explained. "It is a pilot. It will be tested in NCR from Sept. 8 until the end of the month. We will see how effective it will be after a three-week implementation."

Health experts agree that the implementation of granular lockdowns in Metro Manila will not be enough to significantly decrease COVID-19 cases in the region.

OCTA Research fellow Dr. Guido David said granular lockdowns must be complemented by other interventions, such as randomized mass testing, more aggressive contact tracing, and early detection and isolation efforts to effectively curb the spread of the virus.

With Metro Manila still registering over a thousand daily COVID-19 cases, health reform advocate Dr. Tony Leachon said a stricter quarantine classification is the answer to slow down infections in the region and the whole nation.

He added that an extension of the current modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) status in Metro Manila, not a granular lockdown, is the best compromise to control the spread of COVID-19 infections and to perform more mass testing, intensive contact tracing, and rapid vaccination activities.

"It would be a disaster if they will actually do MECQ to GCQ (general community quarantine) on a granular lockdown," Leachon told CNN Philippines.

"It's quite dangerous considering we have high positivity rate, we have high mobility, we have high reproduction number, we have low testings in a Delta variant environment with a demoralized workforce crisis," he also said.

"It is a perfect storm, actually," he added.