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Extending MECQ will be a delicate balancing act —Palace

Malacañang said Monday the government will have to weigh public health and economic considerations before deciding whether to extend the stricter lockdown being imposed in Metro Manila and nearby provinces to curb the spread of COVID-19.

President Rodrigo Duterte placed Metro Manila, Laguna, Cavite, Rizal, and Bulacan under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) from August 4 to 18 following pleas from the medical community for a “timeout” amid rising COVID-19 cases being admitted to hospitals and recalibration of strategies to combat the virus.

Over the weekend, former National Task Force Against COVID-19 adviser Dr. Tony Leachon suggested that the MECQ be extended up to one month to boost the health care capacity and flatten the infection curve.

“On the suggestion to make the MECQ effective for one month, this is a decision that has to be made by the Inter-Agency Task Force [for the Management of] Emerging Infectious Diseases,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said. 

“It entails a delicate balancing of protecting and saving people's health to protecting and saving the economic health of the nation.”

Roque said last week that a prolonged lockdown could lead to grave economic consequences. The Philippine economy plunged into a recession after the gross domestic product shrank 16.5% in the second quarter as strict lockdowns shuttered businesses.

The National Economic and Development Authority last week said that only half of the economy’s capacity is open after Metro Manila and nearby provinces returned to stricter lockdown for two weeks.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Monday expressed confidence that Metro Manila is ready to revert to general community quarantine after August 18, citing the decreasing number of new cases in recent days.

Lorenzana said the government should focus its resources on areas with community transmission so that “others can also go to work.”

According to Roque, the effects of the MECQ would be felt two to three weeks after its enforcement.

“The incubation period for COVID-19, according to health experts, is 14 days so we just have to wait for that time to ascertain the health impact of the MECQ classification,” he said.—AOL, GMA News