Metro Manila, 4 provinces may be ready to ease to GCQ by next week, Lorenzana says

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 10) — National Task Force Against COVID-19 Chairman Delfin Lorenzana on Monday said Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal are likely ready to ease lockdown rules by Aug. 19, less than a week after they were placed under modified general community quarantine (MECQ).

Lorenzana said he believes improvements are reflected in the daily recorded cases of infections.

"The new cases are going down, kahapon 3,000+ na lang down from 6,000 from previous days," he told CNN Philippines. "We are doing well. Sa tingin ko, if the trend continues, we will be ready to go back to GCQ (general community quarantine) by August 18,"

[Translation: The new cases are going down. Yesterday, we recorded 3,000+ new cases compared to the 6,000+ in the previous days. We are doing well. If the current trend continues, we will be ready to go back to GCQ.]

However, he did not discount the possibility that the 15-day strict lockdown may be extended.

"There is a chance kung talagang tataas nang grabe, siguro more than 6,000 to 10,000 per day ang bagong case, kailangan i-extend ang MECQ," he added. "Pero ako ay optimistic na bababa pa ito as we near Aug. 18."

[Translation: There is a chance for an extension if it spikes drastically to 6,000 to 10,000 cases daily. If this happens, then we need to extend the MECQ. But I am optimistic it will continue to go down as we draw closer to Aug. 18.]

Of the 3,109 new COVID-19 cases recorded on Sunday, 1,700 were from Metro Manila, 169 from Laguna, 98 from Rizal, and 93 from Cavite.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, meanwhile, said it is too early to give an assessment of the effectivity of the MGCQ. She said at least two to three weeks is needed to see the full impact of the lockdown.

She added that the declining number of confirmed coronavirus cases is not the only basis for easing stay-at-home rules, saying the government will also consider the healthcare system capacity and if hospitals can cater to all patients that need assistance and treatment.

"Lagi natin ina-assess ang capacity ng healthcare system. Kapag bumababa ang kaso, tinitingnan din natin ang health system, lumuluwag na ba sa mga ospital, wala na bang pasyente na hindi inaadmit? We have to look at these indicators para malaman natin if talagang mag-ease tayo ng restrictions," Vergeire said in an online media forum. 

The Inter-Agency Task Force is set to meet on Wednesday to finalize its recommendation whether to place Metro Manila and the four provinces under GCQ or extend the MECQ. President Rodrigo Duterte will have the final say on the fate of these areas.

There are 129,913 confirmed cases in the country as of Sunday. Over 67,000 have recovered, while 2,270 have died.