The enhanced community quarantine in Luzon will be extended until April 30 to further contain the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country, a cabinet official said on Tuesday, April 7.
Previously, the quarantine was set to end on April 14.
President Rodrigo Duterte approved the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to extend the quarantine, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said.
During his televised address Monday night, Duterte said he was inclined to extend the quarantine until the end of April.
“This was the recommendation of the IATF which President Duterte announced last night (Monday). After his announcement, we verified it and the answer was the ECQ is hereby extended until 11:59 p.m. of April 30,” said Nograles.
He added that all exemptions granted by the IATF and the Office of the President will continue to be in effect for the duration of the extension.
“Provided further that such extension of the ECQ shall be without prejudice to the discretion of the President to relax the implementation of the ECQ in some local jurisdictions, or the granting of exemptions in favor of certain sectors, as public health considerations and food security may warrant,” the secretary said.
Nograles pointed out that the quarantine extension is necessary to give the government more time to ensure the Philippines can flatten the curve and not reach the peak number of confirmed cases.
The extra time will help determine the impact of the quarantine and further increase health capacity in Luzon and other areas with reported cases.
“When we say increasing health capacity, it included testing. Experts say that to manage COVID-10 effectively, we need to increase the country’s testing capacity that we may reach 8,000 to 10,000 tests per day,” he said.
Around 2,000 tests can be done daily because there are only 10 certified laboratories nationwide. However, Nograles expressed confidence that 13,000 to 20,000 COVID-19 tests can be done daily by April 27 through gradually certifying more subnational laboratories.
He added that the government is also targeting to have a 24-hour turnaround time for the release of COVID-19 test results.
“This is our game plan while we haven’t seen the peak yet. If we can make these changes, experts said we can push the peak of COVID-19 in the country to 2021. Hopefully, by then, there is already a vaccine,” Nograles said in Filipino.
P200B not enough
Duterte on Monday admitted that the P200-billion-worth of aid for low-income households, farmers, and fisherfolk is not enough amid the pandemic, asking Finance Secretary Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez III to look for more sources for the government’s fund.
“The P100 billion for one month or the P270 billion for two months that was programmed as earlier estimated is not enough. I’m calling on the Secretary of Finance to generate, you steal, you borrow, I don’t care, just produce the money,” he said in Filipino.
While he said the government is exploring other options to adjust the budget, he stressed that resources are finite, and that there’s “not enough money to go around.”
The president signed the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act on March 24, granting him special powers to address the COVID-19 threat in the country.
Under the law, P200 billion will be allocated to low-income households affected by the enhanced community quarantine enforced in Luzon.
Duterte reiterated his call for the public’s cooperation.
“Once again, I am asking the utmost cooperation of the public in these trying times. Let us heed the needs of our poor brothers and sisters who are hit the most by the pandemic,” he said.
He added, “Be patient and understand the government. We will appreciate it.”