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Roque: Extended ECQ in NCR Plus areas an absolute last resort

An extended implementation of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) protocol in Metro Manila and nearby provinces will be implemented as an absolute last resort amid the surge in COVID-19 cases, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Tuesday.

Roque said the Inter-Agency Task Force—the policy making body of the government in COVID-19 response—will be meeting on Saturday, April 3, to decide whether the ECQ protocol in the NCR Plus areas will be extended or otherwise.

“Another week or two weeks of ECQ, ’yun po ay magiging absolute last resort,” Roque said during a Palace briefing.

(Extending ECQ will be an absolute last resort.)

An ECQ protocol prohibits non-essential trips and non-essential services and businesses from operating.

NCR Plus areas include Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal.

“Inaasahan po natin na ang isang linggong ECQ at isang linggo ng NCR Plus bubble, kasama ang mask, hugas, iwas, at pagbabahay bahay ng paghahanap ng may sintomas at pinaigting na testing and isolation, umaasa po tayo na sana po, hindi na kinakailangan mag [extend ng] ECQ,” Roque said.

(We expect that the one week of ECQ [in NCR Plus areas] and one week of NCR Plus bubble, alongside frequent washing of hands, wearing of face mask and face shield and social distancing, ramped up testing of individuals for COVID-19, we won’t need to impose an extended ECQ anymore.)

For his part, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said the government is open to the recommendation of an ECQ extension.

“We are open to the recommendation of our experts to extend ECQ for 14 days considering that the incubation period of the virus is 14 days,” he said at the same briefing.

Should the government lift the ECQ, Galvez said the government will continue to monitor developments in the NCR Plus bubble.

“Same interventions should be applied in the Greater Manila Area,” he said.

Roque said that ECQ is needed to ensure that hospitals won’t be overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients and will be enough to treat moderate and severe cases.

Earlier, the Department of Health said it has recommended a one-week extension of the ECQ reimposed over Metro Manila and neighboring areas amid the surge in COVID-19 cases.

“Extension for another week was recommended but nothing is final and IATF works in a whole of government approach. There will be an assessment of the progress before ECQ ends,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told GMA News in a text message.

The Philippines has 115,495 active COVID-19 cases so far after a record-setting 10,016 new COVID-19 cases recorded in March 30 alone. — RSJ, GMA News