MANILA, Philippines — The government is seeking to reduce the number of daily new COVID-19 infections by more than 25% now that pandemic epicenter Metro Manila and four nearby provinces have been placed on a week-long lockdown, Malacañang said.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the growth in the number of infections is expected to slow as mobility would be limited due to the enforcement of the strictest enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) from March 29 to April in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal.
"I think the expectation is it (reduction in the number of daily new infections) will be higher than 25% because this is ECQ," Roque said at a press briefing last Saturday.
Roque admitted that it is possible that the number of infections may rise again if the health and safety measures are relaxed.
"That's a possibility so we continue to balance it. We are pursuing our goal to promote the total health of everyone without sacrificing the right to survive, the right not to go hungry," the Palace spokesman said.
"I believe that Filipinos cooperated last year and they will continue to do so. We just need to have a voluntary stay at home. I'm sure our countrymen will do that," he added.
The government placed Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal — areas under the so called "National Capital Region Plus bubble" — under ECQ after the Philippines logged more than 8,000 daily new infections in the past few days.
The lockdown, which will affect more than 20 million people, aims to slow the increase in the number of pandemic infections and to prevent the overwhelming of critical healthcare facilities.
Mobility restrictions in ECQ areas include requiring minors, people above 65 years old, those with health risks, and pregnant women to stay home except when accessing essential goods or services and reporting for work and enforcement of common curfew hours of 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. Gatherings of more than ten persons are also prohibited.
Contact tracing and detection
Roque said the government would intensify contact tracing and detection efforts to contain the spread of the virus. He said government personnel would go from house-to-house to look for persons with COVID-19 symptoms.
"Actually, if they have symptoms, it is already a ground for isolation… There is no violation of human rights because this is part and parcel of an ongoing quarantine," the Palace spokesman said.
"We will make sure that the local governments will isolate not just those who tested positive but also suspected cases and those who had close contact with them. We will intensify testing, contact tracing within 24 hours of detention," he added.
Roque said 95% of the close contacts should be traced, isolated, and quarantined within 24 hours of case notification. The government also aims to buy at least 500,000 antigen test kits to ensure that many people would be tested for COVID-19, he added.
"Also part of our effort is the parallel implementation and the intensified vaccination efforts in high-burden areas. That includes Metro Manila, Laguna, Cavite, Rizal and Bulacan and also Cebu City at ang Davao City," Roque said.
Roque also clarified that persons who are allowed to go out of their homes do not need to present quarantine passes to security forces enforcing the lockdown.
"For the one week period, it may be impossible to issue a new quarantine pass. If you still have the (old) quarantine pass, use it. If you do not have it anymore, an explanation on why you have to leave your house would be enough," he added.
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