Gov’t to finalize guidelines on extension, expansion, or lifting of Luzon lockdown

Sofia Tomacruz
Gov’t to finalize guidelines on extension, expansion, or lifting of Luzon lockdown
The Inter-Agency Task Force directs its technical working group to finalize the guidelines amid speculation that the lockdown would be extended for 60 days

MANILA, Philippines – Midway into the Luzon lockdown, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on the coronavirus ordered its technical working group to finalize guidelines on the extension, expansion, modification, or lifting of the 30-day the enhanced community quarantine due to end on Easter Sunday, April 12.

“The IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) Technical Working Group to be led by the DOH (Department of Health) is directed to convene and finalize the parameters for deciding on the eventual total or partial lifting of the ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) in Luzon, the possible extension of its duration, or its expansion to other areas outside the contained area,” Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles announced in a virtual briefing on Tuesday, March 31.  

The guidelines will be subject to IATF approval.

In an earlier briefing, Nograles said some targets the government wanted to achieve by April 12 were to contain the spread of the coronavorus, identify communities with no cases, and isolate communities with confirmed cases. 

Aside from this, Nograles said the government also wanted to start focusing on treatment and recoveries annd sustain a record of “no new cases.”

Why this matters. Strict quarantine measures to keep people in their homes were put in place for the entire Luzon, where the most number of confirmed coronavirus cases are.

Some 57 million residents in 8 regions were told to observe physical distancing measures, to help protect against coronavirus infection.

Health experts, however, raised concerns over the true results of quarantine measures with data lacking to show an accurate picture of the coronavirus spread in the country. 

Accurate and timely data, they added, is essential in making the tough decision to either extend or end quarantine measures, which if lifted too early could inundate hospitals already overwhelmed with patients. 

Former health secretary Manuel Dayrit earlier warned cases were likely to surge when the lockdown period in Luzon ends on April 12. 

When the lockdown began on midnight of Tuesday, March 17, the country had 140 cases. As of Monday, March 30, that number that soared more than ten-fold to 1,546. The confirmed cases as of Monday include 78 deaths and 48 recoveries. 

Despite this, Nograles gave assurances that when it comes to reviewing lockdown measures in place, “science is in charge.” He denied reports circulating that the government had already decided to extend quarantine measures for 60 days.  

Sa usapin na ito, science is in charge. Sana po malinaw ito sa ating lahat (When it comes to this, science is in charge. That should be clear to everyone),” he said. – Rappler.com

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.