THE government has asked local officials to enforce targeted lockdowns in villages with surging coronavirus infections as part of efforts to contain the pandemic.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Alexei B. Nograles told DZBB radio on Sunday an inter-agency task force made up of Cabinet secretaries met with Metro Manila mayors at the weekend to discuss strict quarantine measures.
“We need localized community quarantine,” he said in Filipino. “We told the mayors that it’s not enough to impose a two-, three- or five-day quarantine. It has to be 14 days.”
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.
The President extended the strict lockdown twice for the island and thrice for Manila, the capital and nearby cities.
The lockdown in most areas including Metro Manila has been eased, with many businesses allowed to reopen with reduced capacity.
Almost all industries except for leisure have reopened. Mass gatherings remained banned.
Mr. Duterte was expected to announce new lockdown classifications this week before various levels of lockdown lapse on July 15.
Most of the country is under a modified general community quarantine. Some areas including the capital region are under a general community quarantine, while others such as Cebu City reverted to an enhanced community quarantine after a surge in COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) cases.
Coronavirus cases have hit more than 50,000 as the lockdown in many provinces and cities were eased.
The targeted lockdowns would ensure that the economy was not unnecessarily affected by a wider quarantine.
The targeted strategy is similar to the one adopted by Beijing, which managed to avoid a second wave of infections in China.
The Chinese capital did not repeat the strict nationwide lockdown it imposed when the virus first spread from Wuhan City earlier this year. Instead, it shut down a limited number of residences and increased mass testing, screening more than half of the capital’s 21 million people.
This approach seemed to have paid off, with reported cases falling to single digits each day by the start of July and zero in some days.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) expects the Philippine economy to shrink by as much as 3.8% this year.
Developing Asia was projected to grow at its slowest pace in nearly six decades as the fallout from the global pandemic worsens.
Economic managers have projected a 2-3.4% contraction this year.
The economy shrank by 0.2% in the first quarter after the crisis brought economic activities to a near standstill. Contraction in the second quarter was expected to have worsened.
ADB cited flat household consumption, weak imports and exports and a plunge in investment. Only government spending rose during the first quarter.
ADB kept its 6.5% growth forecast for the Philippines next year, “supported by public infrastructure spending and anticipated recovery in consumer and business confidence.”
Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III earlier cited the need to monitor the COVID-19 situation in Metro Manila and the Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) region, which account for as much as 67% of the economy.
Calabarzon is under a modified general lockdown except for Cavite and Rizal. Localized lockdowns at the village, municipal, and even within companies could be enforced so the economy won’t get hit in case a spike in infections happens in some areas, he said on June 30. — Gillian M. Cotez