Early Luzon quarantine extension a major move to temper COVID-19 surge — special adviser

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 7) — The government's "early announcement" of extending the Luzon-wide quarantine is crucial in helping slow the spread of the coronavirus, the special adviser to the national task force on COVID-19 says.

Dr. Tony Leachon, speaking to CNN Philippines on Tuesday, commended what he called a “preemptive” move by the government, which he said will buy the country more time to address the pandemic.

“I think ang galing ng ginawa ng Presidente sa pag-announce [ng extension] nang earlier,” Leachon said.

[Translation: I think it was a great decision by the President to announce the extension at an earlier time.]

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nogares, who is COVID-19 interagency task force (IATF) spokesperson, announced Tuesday morning that President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the recommendation of the IATF to extend the quarantine to 11:59 pm of April 30. The quarantine period was originally scheduled to end on April 12.

“That gives us three weeks right now, instead of two weeks,” Leachon said. “We have time to do the mass testing right now, we have time to go to the COVID hospitals, we [can do] all these measures at an earlier time. Bumabawi tayo.”

The special adviser added that the country has not yet seen the peak of the outbreak.

“We are going up to the peak eh, we haven’t reached it yet,” he said, citing data from Johns Hopkins University. He also stressed that with the extension of the quarantine, efforts to contain the viral disease must be “executed with excellence.”

“Dapat with rigor and details tayo," he noted."At dapat everyday ang meeting nito, whether we are actually achieving our goals day-to-day."

[Translation: Our anti-COVID-19 plans must be executed with rigor and details. We should hold meetings everyday to assess if our goals are being achieved.]

What happens after April 30?

Once the Luzon-wide lockdown is lifted after April 30, Leachon said that preventive measures must still be strictly exercised.

“Actually, I think the new normal is social distancing,” he said. “We will maintain that, ‘yung hygienic measures. We will develop a way of life na malinis tayong lahat.”

He emphasized the need to be uncomplacent when it comes to such measures in order to prevent a second wave of COVID-19 outbreak.

Leachon singled out Singapore which is currently facing a second wave of the pandemic. The country had initially garnered praise for its early response to the coronavirus disease.

“Ang nangyari naging complacent sila,” Leachon said. [Translation: What happened is that they became complacent.] The city-state announced on April 3 that it will be closing all schools and offices to prevent escalating infections.

Leachon also called for an “intensive surveillance” of the country until a vaccine for COVID-19 is developed. According to scientists, the coronavirus vaccine may take about 18 months to develop for mass production.

As of April 7, the health department has recorded 3,764 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country. The death toll is now at 177, while a total of 84 patients have already recovered.