Task force adviser bats for two-week extension of Metro Manila lockdown, modified quarantine for Luzon COVID hotspots

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 22)— The COVID-19 lockdown in Metro Manila— the region hardest-hit by the infectious disease in the country— should be extended for two weeks to pave the way for mass testing, a special adviser to the national task force said Wednesday.

Health reform advocate Dr. Tony Leachon suggested that the community quarantine imposed in the capital region, initially set to end on April 30, should remain in place until May 15 so officials can further elevate healthcare capacity.

"I would recommend extension in Metro Manila, National Capital Region from May 1 to 15, basically to increase the healthcare capacity— the testing centers, procure more test kits, improve the hospital facilities, and see the figures go down," Leachon told CNN Philippines' The Source.

He added the extension will be a huge help for the government's target to reach a daily testing capacity of 20,000.

"I think it's doable but we need 'yung allowance ng May 1 to 15 in order to achieve this particular goal," the COVID-19 task force adviser said. "Mass testing, eto ang gamechanger natin (this is our gamechanger) based on several reference models like South Korea, Vietnam, and New Zealand."

Leachon added other parts of Luzon can opt for a modified quarantine, particularly for provinces considered as COVID-19 hotspots outside the metro.

"Hindi naman the entire Luzon ang may problem, there are certain areas na tatawagin nating hotspots (like) Calabarzon and Central Luzon. Perhaps dito lalabas 'yung tinatawag nating modified quarantine," he added.

[Translation: Not all parts of Luzon have this problem. There are certain areas that we will call hotspots like Calabrzon and Central Luzon. Perhaps, this is where we'll see the modified quarantine.]

Quarantine measures in Luzon and other regions — which restrict movement of people except for essential workers as well as stopped public transport operation — were first put in place mid-March in efforts to curb the spread of the viral disease.

Lawmakers, government officials, and business groups have floated several ideas for the country's post-April 30 strategy, with some pushing for a "gradual lifting" of the lockdown.

Leachon, however, warned that a sudden relaxation of quarantine measures "before a strong system is in place" may cause a "resurgence" or second wave of COVID-19 infections.

RELATED: Expert cautions about possible second wave of COVID-19 infections with quarantine lifting

The fate of the quarantine, however, lies in the hands of President Rodrigo Duterte. The chief executive is expected to make the decision on Thursday.

To date, the country has recorded 6,599 cases of COVID-19, including 654 recoveries and 437 fatalities.