Gov't vows 'recalibrated' strategy vs COVID-19 as greater Manila area reverts to MECQ

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 3) – Authorities said they will use the two-week lockdown of Metro Manila and nearby provinces to reassess COVID-19 response measures, saying government is "managing" local infections.

"Nire-recalibrate at nire-reconstitute natin ang ating mga plano dahil ang ating plano is a rolling plan [We are recalibrating and reconstituting our plans because these are rolling plans]," National COVID-19 task force chief implementer Carlito Galvez, Jr. said, in line with the call made by health workers for the state to review its infection control mechanisms.

Residents of Metro Manila, Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna, and Cavite will return to strict stay-at-home rules from August 4 to 18 as the government seeks to slow down COVID-19 infections.

RELATED: Checkpoints set up, quarantine passes to be required again in Metro Manila and four other MECQ areas

Department of Health Undersecretary and Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said the two-week timeout is meant to allow authorities to "manage" the situation, clarifying that they do not expect to flatten the curve through this strategy alone.

She added that the agency will sit down with the Alliance of Healthcare Professionals this week for their inputs on the state's new anti-COVID-19 strategies, which they hope to finalize on Friday.

Meanwhile, Galvez admitted that the Philippines is at a "critical" phase in battling the disease, saying the virus has become more infectious. He pointed out that the spike in cases is expected as the economy is reopened, alongside efforts to test more people.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque stressed anew that current parameters merited keeping these areas under the more relaxed general community quarantine, but the call made by frontliners spelled the difference.

READ: Physicians' group 'not completely happy' with MECQ status for Metro Manila, four provinces

For the next two weeks, government will tap medical teams from the regions and bring them here to man hospitals in the greater Manila area to allow frontliners here to rest and breathe after nearly five months of treating thousands of patients. Existing protocols will be reviewed, with a focus on active case finding on top of aggressive testing.

Contact tracing rules have been upgraded to cover as much as 37 close contacts per positive patient to see if anyone develops symptoms.

The Philippines reported 5,032 new cases on Sunday, bringing total infections to more than 103,000.

Officials insist that reverting to MECQ was not an admission of failure.

"Hindi po 'yan pag-amin... Nakikita natin na ang ating gobyerno is a listening government. May mga hinaing ang ating health workers at pinakinggan natin iyon," Galvez added. "Ginawa na rin natin ito sa Cebu."

[Translation: That is not an admission of failure... We see that our government is a listening government. Our health workers aired their please and we responded. We also did this in Cebu.]

The lockdown starts at midnight Tuesday, giving the public just a day to prepare for the return to lockdown. There were reports of long lines in grocery stores, but Malacañang called for calm and said there's no need to resort to panic buying with ample stocks available.