NEDA chief: Another quarantine extension ‘difficult’ to sustain

THE National Economic and Development Authority Secretary on Thursday, April 16, said that sustaining another extension for the enhanced community quarantine enforced in Luzon will be difficult.

President Rodrigo Duterte in March placed Luzon under quarantine to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country. It was supposed to end on April 14, but was recently extended until April 30.

In an interview with DZMM, NEDA chief Ernesto Pernia said: “Mahirap na siguro. Marami na nagsabi na kailangan may partial opening na (It’s difficult. A lot of people are saying that a partial opening is needed). Dapat lang may (There should be a) precaution against the resurgence or the relapse of people who had been cured or who were able to avoid the COVID-positive situation.”

“This has happened already in China, in Wuhan because when they lifted the lockdown, may mga relapses sila. Even Singapore also is suffering from relapse and Korea so we have to be careful about opening up (and) lifting the quarantine in some areas,” he added.

Pernia noted the country’s economic growth rate for 2020 is expected to take a hit due to the pandemic.

“The worst case scenario siguro is between (negative) one percent and zero. The more upbeat scenario would be a growth rate of between one percent to two percent,” he said.

Cabinet Secretary and Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) Spokesperson Karlo Nograles, for his part, said the government is already fine-tuning its “gameplan” after the quarantine ends. He did not say, however, if there are plans to extend quarantine again.

Pernia, who earlier proposed a “modified lockdown,” lobbied for the partial opening of certain industries such as personal services that offer haircut, laundry, and housecleaning amid the pandemic.

“Maraming mga kailangan na hindi naman talaga vitally necessary pero kailangan din po for more comfortable living. Ganoon siguro yung graduation ng opening (These are not vitally necessary but we also need them for comfortable living. That could be the graduation of opening),” he said.

Año hopeful for a decrease in new COVID-19 cases

As the quarantine in Luzon nears its end, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año expressed hope that there would be a significant decline in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country.

According to him, the Philippines could have recorded 50,000 cases with 7,000 deaths had it not been for the quarantine extension, ultimately deeming the move to be effective.

Año also said that the government is targeting to conduct 8,000 COVID-19 tests per day by the end of April.

He added that the IATF is studying how businesses would be gradually opened once the quarantine ends.

“So pinag-aaralan natin kung gaano karaming workforce ang puwede natin payagan, gradual, unti-unti, hanggang mag-normalize. (We are studying how many workers would be gradually allowed to go to work until the situation becomes normal),” he said.

“So rest assured, ang gagawin naming recommendation sa Pangulo ay itong mas makabubuti sa ating bansa at sa ating mga kababayan (Rest assured that our recommendation to the President would be for the good of the country and our countrymen),” Año added.

As of writing, there are 5,660 cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines, with 362 fatalities and 435 recoveries.

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