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Philippine Government Extends Luzon Lockdown Till 30th April, Prepares To Mass-Test Public

Luzon lockdown extended until 30th April

“Stay at home” is here to stay, as Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) spokesman and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles confirmed today President Rodrigo Duterte’s approval to extend the Enhanced Community Quarantine in Luzon until 30th April 2020

The ECQ is being extended so the Philippine government can have more time to study its effects on community health. 

More time is needed to see if the initial ECQ period was effective

Nograles explained that the government required more time to see the results of the initial ECQ period that began on 15th March. 

He explained, “Base sa syensya at agham, the way we understand the virus, ‘yung sintomas po n’yan ay maaaring lumabas between 5 to 14 days, from the time of your infection. Ibig pong sabihin, kung tayo po ay nag-ECQ ng March 15, kailan po natin makikita yung earliest effect ng ECQ? March 15 + 14 days … equals March 29….” the Secretary shared at the 29:56 mark of his aired speech. 

(Translation: “Based on science and technology, the way we understand the virus, its symptoms can come out between 5 to 14 days from the time of your infection. This means that if we implemented the ECQ on March 15, when will we see the earliest effect of the ECQ? March 15 + 14 days … equals March 29…. “)

Nograles reiterated that the PH government therefore needed until mid-April to get a clearer understanding of the effect of the ECQ. 

Lifting the lockdown on the original end date of 12th April would negate their efforts to understand how effective the ECQ had been in containing the virus. 

Original ECQ rules still apply during the extended lockdown

President Rodrigo DuterteImage credit: Presidential Communications (Government of the Philippines)

During the extended lockdown, the same ECQ rules will apply for all 57 million residents of Luzon, according to Nograles. All forms of travel restrictions shall continue except for movement deemed necessary by the government such as buying necessary goods and reporting to work. 

But the Cabinet Secretary emphasized that President Duterte will have the discretion to “relax” the extended lockdown

“Such extension of the ECQ shall be without prejudice to the discretion of the President to relax the implementation of the ECQ in some local jurisdictions, or the granting of exemptions in favor of certain sectors, as public health considerations and food security may warrant,” Nograles said.

The government is preparing to mass-test people

Military personnel arranging equipment to be used against COVID-19Image credit: Department of Health (Philippines)

To support our country’s fight against COVID-19, the Philippines is planning to fast-track its massive COVID-19 testing by 14th April. 

Nograles explained that the IATF is exhausting all means necessary to increase the mass testing capacity of the country under Department of Health guidelines. 

Under the proposed mass testing, the government will test around 20,000 people per day. Most of them will likely be suspected COVID-19 cases and vulnerable groups. And by the end of April, test results are to be released within 24 hours.

Kailangan mabilis po natin ang pagbigay ng result ng test. (Test results should be given quickly.) We need to have a 24-hour turnaround time,” he said.

Fighting COVID-19 as a nation

Curbing the spread of COVID-19 in the country, which has risen to over 3,660 patients, has indeed been a huge challenge for everyone. But as the government is preparing to leave no one behind in the fight against COVID-19 by extending the lockdown, let’s all hope for the best and do our part to flatten the curve. 

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Cover image adapted from: @pryadinka