I initially thought that the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) imposed by the government could give me a nice and comfortable rest. Unfortunately, the work from home scheme literally meant more work at home for me — sometimes having four to six virtual meetings a day. especially in times when connectivity is a challenge.
But I admit I enjoy the scheme, too, because apart from squeezing a bonding with my family in between meetings, I meet the peers that I rarely see and the people I used to work with without a heavy investment on gas and traffic. One of those that I met again is Karl Chua, the acting Socioeconomic Secretary of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP). Karl used to be one of the Team Leaders I worked with in the World Bank.
Karl graced yesterday’s meeting organized by the Philippine Covid-19 Action Network (CAN). I must say he is one of the those who talks clearly and with sense in the Duterte Government. He explained the need to extend the ECQ but must be modified so as to balance economic revitalization and controlling the spread of the Coronavirus disease — almost the same as our proposal of a selective ECQ.
He admitted that like the rest of the world, the government is also learning on how to respond to Covid 19 — at times even doing a trial and error approach. But as much as possible, the government (specifically the National Economic and Development Authority or NEDA and the Inter-Agency Task Force or IATF) would always base its decisions on science and data despite the seeming lack of it. Indeed, Covid-19 is the first of its kind and this pandemic is one of the biggest, if not the most hyped, in this era.
Painful as this may sound but the government needs to extend the ECQ. This time, however, the extension is modified in such a way that there is already a basis on which to extend and which should not. Based on the decision tool used, those that do not meet the minimum standards will continue to be on a lockdown until May 15. Basically, the standard includes the presence of a well-equipped health facility to treat the Covid-19 patients.
For those that satisfied the standards, geographical factors will be assessed and areas will be determined whether these are low-risk, medium risk or high risk areas. For high risk areas, ECQ will definitely be extended. These are the areas that still have positive Covid-19 patients.
ECQ will be lifted on April 30 for low risk areas while a modified ECQ will be implemented in moderate risk areas. For the latter, there will be age and health restrictions — i.e., the children and senior citizens will not be allowed to go outside their houses — and sector related restrictions particularly for non-essential working population.
The Luzon provinces that will be kept under lockdown are the following:
- Metro Manila
- Nueva Ecija
- Island of Mindoro (Oriental Mindoro and Occidental Mindoro)
- Cebu City*
- Davao del Norte*
- Davao de Oro (formerly Compostela Valley)*
- Davao City*
*The high-risk assessment for these areas would be reviewed and may change before April 30.
Karl admits that the tool is not that perfect but it is better than having no tool at all. Besides, we cannot wait for time to stop just to come up with a better tool in these times when people are dying and the government needs to decide.