LGUs must fulfill 'very stringent criteria' before reverting to lockdowns, IATF doctor says

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 29) — The Inter-Agency Task Force is utilizing "very stringent" criteria to determine whether local government units need to return to stricter quarantine measures.

"Escalation (of community quarantine status) will only happen using a very stringent criteria of the LGU exceeding its healthcare utilization rate," Dr. John Wong said in a virtual briefing, adding that this will ensure hospitals in the locality are not overwhelmed.

Wong, an epidemiologist in the IATF's data analytics sub-technical working group, said the healthcare utilization rate cut-offs for escalation to a stricter lockdown have been raised, giving LGUs more leeway.

For general community quarantine (GCQ), the cut-off is at 60 percent, up from 55 percent. For modified enhanced community quarantine (MGCQ), it's now at 70 percent, compared to the previous 65 percent.

Meanwhile, the cut-off for enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), the strictest lockdown measure, was raised to 85 percent from above 70 percent mark.

"Gatekeeping" criteria for community quarantine de-escalation

Wong also explained that the Department of Health has revised its classification and is now using a new framework, adding that among its concepts is one called "gate-keeping."

The health official said that measures, both old and new, of the health system's current capacity, will serve as "gate keeping criteria before we relax the community quarantine at any LGU."

Furthermore, public health capacities will serve as controls which will "manage the increased risk" that go hand-in-hand with the reopening of the economy.

During his presentation, Wong listed measures of transmission and of health system capacity, a mix of old and new ones, used in assessing COVID-19 response measures, noting that any analysis should factor all metrics in and not just one of them.

Economic managers have cautioned against reverting to harsher lockdowns, which they said might lead to worse economic downturn, a warning echoed by multilateral lender World Bank.

Most areas in the country are under modified GCQ for the whole of October, while Metro Manila and five other areas are under GCQ. Lanao del Sur, including Marawi City, shall remain under MECQ.

The Philippines currently has over 309,000 confirmed coronavirus cases. Nearly 253,000 have survived the disease, while more than 5,400 have died from it.