By Darryl John Esguerra
Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque, announced on Wednesday night that the President “agreed” to keep Metro Manila under GCQ after a “lengthy discussion” with members of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) and experts from the University of the Philippines.
According to Roque, Duterte initially agreed to return Metro Manila to the more stringent modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) as proposed by UP to curtail the further spread of the respiratory disease.
However, Roque said Duterte changed his mind after COVID-19 response Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año appealed to keep Metro Manila under GCQ, which has been its status for six weeks now, citing the promise of the region’s mayors to implement stricter enforcement of health protocols and quarantine restrictions.
“So the President agreed not to put Metro Manila again under MECQ for the next two weeks,” Roque said in Filipino. “But it was clear from the discussion that the spread of COVID in Metro Manila has not slowed down. It’s possible that it would return to MECQ after two weeks.”
According to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, the country’s case doubling time — or the time it takes for new cases to increase two-fold — is now between 8 to 12 days, way better from the 2.5 days during the initial phase of the pandemic.
Duque also cited the improved mortality doubling time, which he said was now under the “moderate risk” classification.
However, there has been a continued rise in COVID-19 cases nationwide — which health authorities attributed largely 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.
The Philippines has had 10 consecutive days of over 1,000 newly reported cases, a significant number of which were recorded in Metro Manila, which remains as the epicenter of the contagion in the country.
To date, there are 58,850 COVID-19 cases nationwide, of whom nearly half, or 29,015, are in Metro Manila.
Meanwhile, 20,976 patients have so far recovered and 1,614 have died.