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Experts back rejection of nationwide MGCQ

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 23)— Two health experts on Tuesday voiced out support for President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to reject the further easing of restrictions nationwide pending the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the country.

In an interview with CNN Philippines, infectious diseases expert Dr. Rontgene Solante said the President’s move lets healthcare workers breathe a sigh of relief for now— as it would give them more time to prepare for the future shift to the more lenient modified general community quarantine measure.

“As frontline healthcare workers, that’s quite a relief for us because we still do have a lot of time to really prepare,” Solante, who heads the Infectious Diseases Department of the San Lazaro Hospital, told The Source.

“Since the President more or less prioritized the safety of the public over that of the economy, then we will still continue to abide by that and prepare ourselves for the cases to come,” he added.

Meanwhile, health reform advocate Dr. Tony Leachon said he was “extremely happy” with Duterte’s decision, noting the current COVID-19 data being reported in the country do not look good at the moment.

“I’m extremely happy with the President’s decision… Because the numbers are not really good, and it’s coming from the DOH [Department of Health],” Leachon said in the same program.

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Citing data from the health agency, Leachon noted the Philippines’ daily coronavirus case average has been hovering at around 2,000, adding that the case fatality and positivity rates have also been higher.

The country recorded 2,288 new cases of infections on Monday— the biggest single-day increase since November 8.

“And you don’t have a vaccine at this point in time really that would protect the population,” the former task force special adviser pointed out. “So to me, it’s clear cut that the modified GCQ should not be implemented knowing that you don’t have the vaccine plus the other variables— plus, the threat of the entry of the B117 [variant] in our country.”

Duterte on Monday announced that the Philippines would not be placed under MGCQ “unless there is a rollout of vaccines.” Malacañang in a statement said the chief executive “gives higher premium to public health and safety.”

The proposal to place the whole country under the most relaxed lockdown measure was first floated by the National Economic and Development Authority, as it cited the need to bounce back from economic losses. However, health experts have continuously warned against the “risky” move, saying this may only contribute to a further spike in virus cases. By CNN Philippines Staff