Año on eased restrictions: We'll restore ‘drastic measures’ if there's a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 16) — The government is prepared for any eventuality following the easing of several quarantine restrictions, and will tighten the rules should there be a sudden spike in coronavirus cases, a Cabinet official said Friday.

In the latest resolution of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, the policy-making body in the government’s coronavirus response, persons aged 15 to 65 are now allowed to go out. Previous rules ordered people under 21 years old and above 60 to stay home except for work and accessing necessities.

The government has also allowed Filipinos to take non-essential travel abroad, and malls and other commercial establishments to hold sales to spur economic activity. People can now travel freely between areas under general community quarantine and the more relaxed modified GCQ.

The guidelines have become less strict on the seventh month of community quarantine, which is considered as the world’s longest lockdown. The Philippines has recorded over 351,000 COVID-19 cases, narrowly behind Indonesia in having the highest number of infections in Southeast Asia.

In an interview with CNN Philippines, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año assured that the government will be strictly monitoring the coronavirus situation “on a daily basis” and reimpose stricter measures if necessary.

“Syempre kapag biglang magspike talaga ‘yan then we will have to resort again to more drastic measures,” Año said. “Sinisigurado naman natin na meron tayong magandang risk management.”

[Translation: Of course, when the coronavirus cases suddenly spike, then we will have to resort again to more drastic measures. We see to it that we have proper risk management.]

He said it’s best to compare data every two weeks due to delayed processing in some laboratories.

Año, who is part of the IATF along with the Department of Health and other government agencies, said the country’s healthcare system can handle a possible increase in coronavirus patients, since the current critical care utilization rate is not within the danger zone.

Of the country’s total coronavirus cases, 50,453 patients are active cases or currently ill, according to the Department of Health. Majority of them should be staying in hospitals or isolation facilities as the government discourages home quarantine to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

All activities must still observe minimum health standards, such as the wearing of face masks and face shields, social distancing, and proper handwashing.

The Duterte administration has moved away from its "stay home" campaign to ask Filipinos to head out to spend and shop – a last-ditch effort to breathe life into the economy amid a pandemic-induced recession.