Health Chief Duque backs extended MECQ in NCR Plus bubble

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 26) — Health Secretary Francisco Duque III believes the modified enhanced community quarantine status over Metro Manila and nearby provinces should be retained until May, his office confirmed on Monday.

He said in a television interview that the lockdown should not be relaxed for one or two more weeks to help ease the burden on healthcare capacity

Health Department spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said Duque and the entire DOH support the extension of the MECQ over Metro Manila, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, and Bulacan when it expires on April 30.

"Kami sa DOH, nakikita namin ang importansya na maituloy pa natin ang ganitong restrictions para mas magkaroon ng pahinga o mas magkaroon pa ng decongestion ang ating healthcare system," she said in a media briefing.

[Translation: We see the importance of continuing this level of restriction to allow our healthcare facilities to decongest.]

The official added that they have met with health experts who presented three options for community quarantine status come May: MECQ until end of May, MECQ then shift to general community quarantine by May 15, or shift to GCQ starting May 1.

Vergeire said they have seen that the number of new COVID-19 infections are declining, but hospitals are still grappling to care for patients in critical condition.

The Philippine College of Physicians and the Philippine Hospital Association have recommended the extension of MECQ over Metro Manila and other provinces since hospitals and healthcare workers are still struggling.

The pandemic interagency task force is set to issue its recommendations to President Rodrigo Duterte this week.