Waiting for data, some NCR mayors mull ECQ extension

Dwight de Leon
Waiting for data, some NCR mayors mull ECQ extension

LOCKDOWN. Police officers check the identification papers of individuals passing through a checkpoint at the Muntinlupa-San Pedro border during the first day of Enhanced Community Quarantine on March 29, 2021.

Metro Manila mayors will make a final recommendation to the task force on Saturday, April 3

Some mayors in Metro Manila on Wednesday, March 31, did not rule out endorsing an extension of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), the most stringent form of lockdown, for another week in the capital region.

The ECQ, which was only enforced in the region on March 29 and is scheduled to end this Sunday, April 4, requires most residents to stay in their homes, reducing public transport, and restricting non-essential businesses.

In separate interviews with Rappler on Wednesday, Navotas Mayor Toby Tiangco and Marikina Mayor Marcelino Teodoro acknowledged that based on past experience, a week of strict lockdowns may not be enough to reverse the upward trend in COVID-19 cases.

Hindi naman talaga napapababa ang kaso within seven days, kasi pwede siya within 14 days, bago magmanifest (Cases don’t go down in 7 days, sometimes it takes 14 days for the results to manifest),” Tiangco said.

“From a medical point of view, it’s not enough,” Teodoro noted.

In August 2020, two weeks of the Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine, the second most stringent lockdown measure, was imposed to fight the surge in COVID-19 infections in the region.

For San Juan City Mayor Francis Zamora, lifting the ECQ in Metro Manila and 4 nearby provinces, collectively known as “NCR Plus,” could put to waste the government’s efforts to mitigate the unprecedented COVID-19 spike.

“Even if the numbers drop now and by April 5, we reopen the economy, we’ll just waste what we achieved last week, as compared to extending it just a little to maximize the effect of ECQ,” Zamora said in a CNN Philippines interview on Wednesday.

Data-driven decisions

Teodoro and Tiangco however declined to give a categorical answer when asked whether they will back a push for an extension of the ECQ, saying they would rather wait for the recommendation of health experts.

Metro Manila mayors will make a formal recommendation to the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases on Saturday, April 3, on whether to retain the ECQ in “NCR Plus.”

“It will be better if it is data-driven, kung ano ang pananaw ng ating health experts (based on the opinion of health experts). It has to be balanced with hospital capacity,” Tiangco said.

“It depends on whether the data show an increasing or decreasing trend, or if the measures that we were instituting are effective or not,” Teodoro added in a mix of English and Filipino.

But Teodoro also noted that extending the strictest form of lockdown may not only be detrimental to the economy, but also extremely unfavorable to the poor.

Kapag tiningnan mo iyong data natin (If you look at the data), index level ng hunger, percentage of unemployment, pandemic-induced recession, we also need to consider these things,” Teodoro said.

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For the ECQ in “NCR Plus” from March 29 to April 4, eligible Filipinos will only get P1000 worth of cash or goods each.

What the health department, Palace say

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, in an interview with ANC on March 30, already recommended to the IATF to extend the ECQ in “NCR Plus”.

She said the ideal period for lockdown measures to impact the spread of cases was still at two weeks, which is the incubation period for the virus.

“One week really is short. We have recommended an extension. But of course, we need to balance it off with the economy,” Vergeire said.

Malacañang remained undecided.

“It’s a 50-50. We’re hoping na ‘yung one-week bubble natin, at tsaka ‘yung one-week ECQ natin (We hope that our one-week bubble and one-week ECQ) will lead to lower numbers,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said on Tuesday, March 30.

“NCR Plus” was under a travel bubble setup a week prior to the implementation of ECQ.

The Philippines is currently dealing with over 130,000 active COVID-19 cases, overwhelming hospitals in “NCR Plus”. –

Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers local government units and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.