WHO official says PH should keep strict quarantine rules

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 18) — Amid the push of economic managers to ease quarantine rules even in the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the country, the World Health Organization's Representative to the Philippines, Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, expressed belief it is not yet the right time for the entire country to shift to the most relaxed form of community quarantine.

The official on Thursday was asked in a public briefing to comment on the National Economic and Development Authority's proposal for the country to ease to modified general community quarantine next week, even if some parts of the country continue to record spikes in new cases.

Abeyasinge said that although cases in Metro Manila may have plateaued, they have not yet completely flattened. He also pointed out that new cases of a more transmissible COVID-19 variant are being recorded in the country. He added that the country cannot afford to do a "large-scale" relaxation of quarantine measures given that vaccinations have not yet even started.

"We still need to be conscious of the fact there is a relatively high level of transmission out there in the community. That situation is complicated by the presence of new variants. So I believe firmly that we still need to maintain these restrictions," he said in a media briefing.

He said that there needs to be careful calibration when balancing health and economy.

Metro Manila mayors on Thursday agreed in a slim vote to shift to MGCQ by March if President Rodrigo Duterte wishes.

The OCTA Research group warned that if Metro Manila moves to MGCQ, it will lead to a surge of up to 2,400 new cases per day by March 26, similar to the daily tally when the capital region was placed under modified enhanced community quarantine in August 2020 due to dwindling healthcare utilization.