Manila, Philippines — Imposing the strictest quarantine measure will not be enough to bring down COVID-19 cases in the country and further extension of the quarantine would just sink 350,000 more people into poverty, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).
Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua yesterday said further extending the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) would negatively impact a majority of the people.
The government had decided to extend the ECQ status in the National Capital Region and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal by another week until April 11.
The two-week ECQ alone is expected to result in some 252,000 more jobless and 102,000 additional poor.
The lockdown also translates to a daily household income loss of P2.1 billion or nearly P30 billion for the two-week period.
Overall, the ECQ will likely shave off 0.8 percentage points from the country’s full year gross domestic product (GDP) growth for the year.
Malacañang and even health experts did not dismiss the fact that another extension is possible if COVID-19 cases will remain high over the next days, which means that the figures could still balloon.
On the other hand, Chua said the ECQ is estimated to help avert 215,320 COVID-19 cases, of which 6,460 are severe and critical. It can also prevent 4,026 COVID deaths.
“ECQ alone does not reduce cases. It simply buys time. Thus, we need to further intensify testing, tracing, quarantine, isolation, treatment and vaccination,” Chua said.
“Enforcing minimum health protocols and monitoring compliance, building more isolation facilities, accelerating vaccine deployment to the vulnerable sectors and implementing the additional social amelioration program are all needed,” he said.
Further, NEDA said a more intensified implementation of the Prevent, Detect, Isolate, Treat and Recover (PDITR) strategy is key for the ECQ to be effective.
Chua argued that latest COVID-19 data show that the country is now at a critical juncture and collective action will spell the difference between containment and further spread of the virus.
“ECQ alone does not reduce the spike in the COVID-19 cases. The solution is to further enhance our implementation of the PDITR strategy with clear targets to achieve. This will help reduce the spike in COVID-19 cases given the new variants,” Chua said.
He noted the strategy worked between August 2020 and February 2021 when the country was able to reduce cases to below 2,000 per day, which allowed the gradual reopening of the economy.
However, the implementation of the PDITR strategy needs to be further intensified, especially with the new COVID-19 variants contributing to the hike in positivity rate at 21.1 percent.
Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star