After Metro Manila and surrounding provinces end their second to the strictest modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) status on Tuesday, September 7, Filipinos can expect the government to enforce granular lockdowns moving forward.
In an interview with DZBB on Saturday, September 4, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said this new strategy would use four levels – 1, 2, 3, and 4 – to categorize the incidence of COVID-19 in an area and how strict the lockdown will be. Level 1 means the area has the least restrictions, while level 4 means hard lockdown.
“I-a-announce ito officially, pero ang importante, granular lockdown ang system para ‘yun pong saan lang nagkaroon ng hotspot, doon lang magkakaroon ng hard lockdown. At the other parts ng area na ‘yun ay pababayaang magbukas,” said Lopez.
(This will be announced officially, but the important thing is, the system will be of granular lockdowns so that only areas considered hotspots will be locked down, while other parts of that area will be allowed to open.)
He said this would also allow more businesses to open gradually in areas where there is less COVID-19 transmission.
The Philippines is facing its worst COVID-19 surge yet as confirmed cases surpassed the 2 million mark on September 1.
As of Saturday, the country’s positivity rate was at 28%, which means that almost a third of those being tested were yielding positive results.
Lopez said hard lockdowns mean no entry or exit except for health workers. Discussions are still ongoing for authorized persons outside of residence (APORs), but Lopez said a suggestion was floated to allow APORs to go out as long as they have negative COVID-19 test results.
“Puwedeng lumabas, ‘wag lang bumalik, kasi ilo-lockdown na ‘yung lugar. Kung ‘yung employer makakagawa ng housing or temporary lodging, ‘yun ang dapat i-arrange. Otherwise, work from home siya,” said Lopez.
(APORs can go out, but they can’t come back because the area will be locked down. If it is possible, employers should arrange housing or temporary lodging. Otherwise, the APOR should work from home.)
Because granular lockdowns mean that restrictions will be narrowed down, Lopez said that local governments could enforce hard lockdowns, or level 4, in areas as small as a few houses that are next to each other, one street, or one subdivision. Other surrounding areas could be on a different level.
Lopez said a hard lockdown period could last for 14 days, but this is yet to be finalized in guidelines to be released by the government.
According to him, the national government and the social welfare department will provide aid and food packs to Filipinos affected by the granular hard lockdowns.
Need for new strategy
Lopez said this strategy is being eyed because President Rodrigo Duterte said he wanted an adjusted, more precise, and more responsive system for more “effective” lockdowns.
On Saturday, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that the government is “restrategizing” – assessing what did and did not work in the current policies so that the government’s pandemic task force could adjust accordingly.
Vergeire said that the health department is still expecting COVID-19 cases to rise until the end of September. – Rappler.com