Gov’t set to announce decision on Luzon lockdown

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THE government was expected to announce its decision by late Monday on whether it would extend a Luzon-wide lockdown to contain the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.

A task force made up of Cabinet officials was still assessing the health crisis, its spokesman Karlo Alexei B. Nograles told a news briefing on Monday morning.

A technical working group headed by the Department of Health was still studying data on COVID-19 cases, he added.

“You can be assured that in deciding the matter, the Inter-Agency Task Force and President Rodrigo R. Duterte will consider what the experts say,” Mr. Nograles said in Filipino.

“The President is seriously evaluating the inputs and suggestions given by various sectors of society for either the extension or the lifting of the enhanced community quarantine or lockdown,” presidential spokesman Salvador S. Panelo said in an e-mailed reply to a pool of questions.

Mr. Duterte will “take the best option that will purge us of this pandemic,” he said.

Mr. Nograles said at the weekend the task force would probably announce its recommendations to Mr. Duterte by April 6.

The technical working group is composed of officials from the National Economic and Development Authority, Philippine Institute for Development Studies, Department of Science and Technology and experts from the academe, health, economic and security sectors.

Cebu Rep. Rodrigo A. Abellanosa in a statement said the government should stagger the lifting of the so-called enhanced community quarantine for Luzon and enforce localized quarantines.

He said lockdown may be imposed per village or clusters of villages and by employment communities such as construction, food production, food processing, manufacturing, call centers, building maintenance and the like.

Mr. Abellanosa said food deliveries and public transportation may be allowed to operate but only within the local quarantines.

Authorities can persuade supermarkets, big grocery stores and food wholesalers to hire out-of-work drivers, cashiers and baggers. Standby jeepneys, trucks and buses may also be hired to set up mobile stores, while law enforcers must “actively discourage” residents from going out of their local quarantines. — Gillian M. Cortez and Genshen L. Espedido