Gov’t open to possible ECQ extension in NCR Plus — task force exec

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 29)— The government is not closing the door on a possible extension of the newly imposed enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila and nearby provinces, a top task force official said on Monday.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, also the chairman of the National Task Force Against COVID-19, said all options remain open when it comes to measures needed to address the COVID-19 crisis.

“Yes (government is open to possible extension). All options are open naman sa table ng IATF (on the table of the IATF),” Lorenzana told CNN Philippines’ The Source.

In a separate media briefing, IATF and Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the government would have to strike a balance and consider the "total health condition" of Filipinos who could also suffer from hunger due to the temporary suspension of many businesses.

The capital region and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal — dubbed as the NCR Plus — were placed under the strictest form of quarantine from Monday until April 4 to tackle the continuous surge in coronavirus infections.

LIST: One-week ECQ in Greater Manila area explained

Asked about the possible effects of the new lockdown, Lorenzana said this coming week would serve as an “observation period” for officials to check the trend of the virus.

“That is the intention of the one week— to see kung sapat ba ‘yun para matigil natin ‘yung pagtaas (if it is enough to stop the rise),” Lorenzana noted.

However, he stressed that the IATF will be waiting for the projections and recommendations of health experts before making their next move.

The Health Department, for its part, reiterated that the policy is not cast in stone, adding they are constantly reviewing data to see if the ECQ should be extended or lifted.

“Everything will be flexible, everything will be dynamic,” DOH spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a media forum in the same day.

“It will be based a lot of factors, but most importantly, it will be based on the capacity of our health system,” she added.

The Philippines has been logging record high daily COVID-19 cases in the past few days. On Sunday, the DOH reported 9,475 more people contracted COVID— the third consecutive day the nationwide tally breached the 9,000 mark. On Monday, the first day of the ECQ, the one-day increase in cases was even higher at 10,016, the DOH reported.