Two-week MECQ in Metro Manila manageable, but extension of stricter lockdown a ‘more serious’ issue — Duterte adviser

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 3)— A two-week modified enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila will be “manageable” for the economic sector, but a possible extension will prove to have some serious effects, an adviser to President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday.

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion told CNN Philippines that the sector respects Duterte’s decision to place the capital region under a stricter lockdown status, adding officials will “make the best out of” the protocol by improving the health care system in the country.

However, he expressed hope that there will be no need for a longer extension, with local governments urged to implement localized lockdowns.

“Part of the plan really is to move towards a granularized lockdown, but in this case, because of the number of infections rising, I understand that we will have to take a pause,” Concepcion said in an interview with The Source.

“Two weeks is not too long, we can manage that, but if it goes beyond two weeks, then it becomes a little bit more serious,” he added.

Duterte on Sunday announced that Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal will be shifting back to MECQ starting Tuesday— partly heeding the call of frontliners who have sought for the strictest ECQ in Mega Manila.

The administration has been wary of implementing the strictest lockdown policy in the capital region despite the surge in COVID-19 cases as it works to restart the economy by gradually allowing businesses to reopen.

Concepcion, for his part, joined calls for the government to shift to effective granularized lockdowns, saying the move will let citizens “coexist” with the unpredictable virus.

“Moving forward, to co-exist with the virus, we have to allow a granularized type of lockdown and approach it from a data-driven approach by getting the source from DOH (Department of Health) as to the number of infections in each barangays, then we’ll know what barangays to lockdown immediately,” he said.

READ: Difficult to go back to ECQ, DTI chief says amid medical community’s plea for stricter quarantine in Manila

The medical community’s plea for a “timeout” came in the wake of the rapid rise of coronavirus infections in the country, which have now surpassed the 100,000 mark. Frontliners said a stricter quarantine will help the healthcare system— and the workers themselves— breathe, and will pave the way for the refinement of pandemic controls strategies.

Private sector to pitch in in COVID-19 pooled testing

While some industries are set to be locked down for the next two weeks, the private sector will meanwhile roll out initial "pooled" polymerase chain reaction or PCR testing programs in the metro before August 15.

The sector will fund the pooled PCR tests that will be conducted in 16 cities and one municipality in the region, Concepcion said.

Under the said approach, patients’ samples will be grouped into 10 and will undergo one PCR test— a move officials labeled as more cost-efficient and speedy. Lawmakers who have pushed for the implementation of this protocol also argued it will accelerate the isolation procedures in the country.

“That will help increase the visibility to determine where the infections are. This will be a game-changer. It will speed up testing and make it cheaper,” Concepcion said.