THE ORTIGAS BUSINESS DISTRICT is seen behind a slum area near the Manggahan Floodway in Pasig City on May 25. The government is looking at further easing the lockdown in Metro Manila starting June as it tries to restart business operations brought to a near standstill by a novel coronavirus pandemic. — PHILSTAR/MICHAEL VARCAS

SENATORS on Monday sought reliable data upon which the government should base its decision on whether to further ease the lockdown in Metro Manila, where the Philippines’ coronavirus pandemic is largely concentrated.

Senator Franklin M. Drilon said there must be a “science-based decision” to minimize transmissions.

“The number of cases may not be doubling but it is still increasing,” he said in a statement. “It just breached 14,000 yesterday and another 6,000 who tested positive remain to be validated.”

“They may be silent carriers who unknowingly spread the virus,” Mr. Drilon said.

Senator Panfilo M. Lacson in a separate statement said he supports the shift to a general from an enhanced community quarantine in the capital and nearby cities so some businesses could reopen.

“It is wise for our policy makers to ease up the restrictions currently being imposed,” he said, noting that a prolonged lockdown affects not just people but tax collections as well.

He also said the decision to ease the lockdown in Metro Manila should be based on “sound data,” especially after recent inaccurate COVID-19 reports released by the Department of Health (DoH).

President Rodrigo R. Duterte locked down the entire Luzon island in mid-March, suspending work, classes and public transportation to contain the pandemic. People should stay home except to buy food and other basic goods, he said.

He extended the quarantine for the island twice and thrice for the capital region. Metro Manila remains under an altered lockdown until the end of the month, with some businesses allowed to reopen with minimal workforce.

The President would ease the lockdown if data would show that infections have slowed, his spokesman Harry L. Roque told DZRH radio yesterday.

Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana, who heads a national task force against the coronavirus, said Metro Manila would probably go back to a more relaxed general community quarantine starting June 1.

But Mr. Roque said nothing was final yet in the absence of an announcement from the task force, which had yet to meet this week to discuss a decision.

Also yesterday, DoH reported 284 new infections, bringing the total to 14,319. The death toll rose to 873 after five more patients died, it said in a bulletin. Seventy-four more patients have gotten well, bringing the total recoveries to 3,323 it added.

Of the 284 new cases, 171 came from Metro Manila, 70 from Central Visayas and 43 from the other regions, DoH said.

Senators last week hit conflicting government information about the coronavirus situation in the country after Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the country had entered a second wave of coronavirus infections. He later corrected himself.

Countries worldwide including the Philippine have imposed lockdowns and asked people to observe social distancing to slow the virus spread.

Apart from the inaccurate statements, DoH has also been accused of buying overpriced medical supplies. The Senate has vowed to investigate this when the proper time comes.

Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara, meanwhile, filed a bill that will mandate mass testing. Under the measure, health workers, returning overseas Filipinos and the vulnerable sector will be prioritized.

Sales people in public markets and groceries, construction and factory workers, security guards, pregnant workers and family members whose households have dwellers with travel history abroad since December 2019 will also be prioritized for the tests. — Charmaine A. Tadalan and Gillian M. Cortez