NEDA acting chief pushes for localized lockdowns to save jobs as COVID-19 cases soar

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 21) — Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua took a firm stance on Sunday that targeted lockdowns could address the spiking cases of COVID-19 while ensuring jobs and livelihood of many Filipinos are not jeopardized. 

He said the government has to "continue managing risks" through localized lockdowns amid reports on surging coronavirus cases. On Saturday, the Department of Health said the Philippines reported 7,999 new COVID-19 cases.

Chua's statement backs the recent decisions of several Metro Manila mayors to impose stricter quarantine controls in their respective areas to slow the spread of the virus in the capital region.

According to the OCTA Research team, Metro Manila, Calabarzon, and Central Luzon were the top three regions with the most new cases on March 19.

READ: LIST: Areas under lockdown in Metro Manila

RELATED: New all-time high COVID-19 infections with nearly 8,000 new cases

Enforcing strict movement restrictions in select places would be pursued "so that the jobs/livelihood of the far majority will not be affected," Chua said in a statement.

READ: PH economy plunges by record -9.5% in 2020 as Q4 GDP maintains slump

"The issue we face now is not economy vs health. It is the total health of the people, whether from COVID, non-COVID sickness, or hunger," he said.

"We also have much higher deaths due to non-COVID because many can't afford treatment. We also have to look after their welfare," the NEDA acting secretary said.

A year into lockdown, he noted that 3.2 million people residing in Metro Manila are hungry, adding there are 506,000 jobless individuals.

He also reiterated that around ₱700 million daily income of workers has been lost as NCR and nearby provinces remain under general community quarantine.

Former COVID-19 task force adviser Dr. Tony Leachon, meanwhile, said that the government must focus on addressing hospitals overwhelmed with the rising virus cases and ramping up its vaccination program.

"It’s a dynamic process of calibrating our response depending on COVID cases and other factors. We can’t fully open the economy when healthcare capacities have not been set up, new variants not addressed, and the supply of vaccines is limited and not sustainable," he said in his Twitter post.