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The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), in partnership with the Local Government Academy (LGA) initiated a discussion with local chief executives on the National Strategies in fighting COVID-19.  Members of the task force, headed by Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. joined the L!STONG Ugnayan, COVID-19 ay Labanan Online Talakayan Series to provide updates on the strategies of the Inter Agency Task Force for Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).

The “Thinking processes”

To start the session, acting NEDA Chief, Director Karl Kendrick Chua, presented the ‘thinking processes” of the IATF-EID on the decision of modifying the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ).

He cautioned about allowing people to go out due to the impact of the quarantine to the economy, emphasizing that a second wave of the virus might occur.  He reiterated the need to meet the minimum health standards of the Department of Health (DOH) before easing up the quarantine.

He then added that the opening of work during the GCQ will involve 100% operation of agriculture, fishery, forestry, healthcare, logistics, water, energy, internet, telecommunication, and media. Those that can operate from 50-100% are other manufacturing companies such as electronic and exports, e-commerce and delivery for essential and non-essential items, repair and maintenance services, and housing and office services. For financial services, BPOs, other non-leisure wholesale and retail trade, and other non-leisure services are advised to have 50% on-site work and 50% work from home. 

Under the GCQ, schools will remain closed with the possibility of classes to commence in September 2020 depending on the recommendations of DepEd and CHED. Leisure, amusement, gaming, and fitness are still not allowed during GCQ as well as tourism and all mass gatherings.

Dir. Chua added that in order to flatten the curve, expansion of the capacity of the healthcare system in the country and the increase in testing capacity need to be prioritized.

ECQ vs. GCQ

The Chief Implementer of the COVID response, Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr. presented the differences between the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) and the General Community Quarantine (GCQ).

During the ECQ, strict implementation of home quarantine is imposed, however with the GCQ, ages 0=20 years old, the elderly from 60 years old and above, and those having high health risk shall stay home. Only one (1) person per household is allowed to buy basic necessities during the ECQ, while with the implementation of GCQ, non-workers would be allowed to buy goods and access services except those pertaining to leisure activities.

Under the ECQ, only essential workers are allowed such as frontline workers and skeletal forces being implemented by the government sector, but with the GCQ, those working under categories I, II, and III can go to work.

Curfew during the ECQ is implemented 24/7, with other LGUs having ordinances for curfew from 8PM-5AM. During the GCQ, the curfew times will only be at night with exemptions depending on the ordinance passed by the locality.

No mass transportation is allowed under ECQ but unhampered movement of goods is being observed. With GCQ, all airports and sea ports will be opened for unhampered movement of goods as well as allowing some public transport to operate on a reduced capacity. Airports and seaports will also be opened for the movement of goods only.

According to Sec. Galvez, the government is eyeing to test all suspected COVID-19 patients, health workers and frontliners before the end of the enhanced community quarantine on May 15 with tests to be conducted in NCR not later than May 7, and all other areas under ECQ not later than May 15.

Social Amelioration Program (SAP)

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Rolando Bautista, presented updates regarding the implementation of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP).

According to Sec. Bautista, as of April 27, 2020 a total of 81.7 billion pesos were downloaded to the field offices of DSWD with about 80.7 billion pesos of the amount already transferred to the LGUs. He added that as a whole, 98.76% of the funds intended for the LGUs has already been transferred. This translates to about 1,515 out of 1,632 LGUs nationwide that have received the funds from the DSWD field offices for the SAP. The amount of 3.01 billion pesos has been given to the beneficiaries of the DSWD under its regular programs.

DOH’s Five (5) Point Strategy

DOH Undersecretary Dr. Gerardo Bayugo, who presented on behalf of DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III said that the primary goal of the COVID-19 response is to reduce COVID-19 related deaths as well as non-COVID deaths.  He added that while the virus has been under the microscope for the past couple of months, this should not prevent the government from providing health services to the Filipino people.

To further highlight his point, he presented the five (5) point strategy of the DOH in responding to the public health emergency: 1) Increase Resilience, 2) Stop Transmission, 3) Reduce Contact Rate, 4) Shorten the Duration of Infectiousness, and 5) Enhance Quality, Consistency, and Affordability of Care Provision.

The 5-point strategy is aligned with the National Action Plan to prevent, detect, isolate, and treat COVID-19. He sought the cooperation of the LGUs in modifying the department’s COVID-19 intervention to best reflect their local considerations and corresponding needs. “The DOH together with other National Government Agencies will provide the necessary inputs or enablers which will allow LGUs to perform the tasks which are asked of them,” said Usec. Bayugo.

He ended his presentation by stating that these enablers mentioned include protocols, care coordination, infrastructures, health workers, PPEs, essential medicines and supplies, and financing.

Reopening of business establishment during ECQ and GCQ

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secrertary Ramon Lopez clarified the list differentiating the sectors not allowed during the ECQ and GCQ.  He said that the list needs to be reviewed and confirmed by the IATF.

“In allowing the business sectors to operate during the ECQ, we try to find the balance between COVID-19 transmission risks of every industry versus the essential nature of the industry,” said Sec. Lopez.

He also mentioned that services of dental and EENT clinics, as well as delivery services were initially not allowed during the ECQ. However, due to requests of stakeholders, the DTI may consider allowing said businesses, provided that strict health standards are implemented.

He added that barbershops, salon, spas, and other personal care industries will be allowed in GCQ areas, as long as these businesses will observe strict health standards. Gyms, sports facilities, mass gatherings, libraries, museums, and other cultural activities, and gambling activities will still not be allowed under the GCQ. The same goes for travel agency services as well as activities of membership to organizations.

The Leader in the fight against COVID-19

The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo M. Año inspired the participants as well as encouraged them to continue the fight against COVID-19. He added that being the leaders of their community, they are essential in making sure that the constituents are one with the government in fighting the pandemic.

He reminded the LGU officials on the composition of the City/Municipal COVID task force which is divided into 4 teams – the local contact tracing, diagnostic and testing, patient management monitoring, and logistics and resources support. He added that incoming travels from countries with COVID-19 cases will not be allowed except for sweeper flights transporting people wanting to return home to areas declared under GCQ. There should also be uninterrupted delivery of food, medicine, and essentials.

Sec. Año reiterated a more stringent implementation of the curfew hours and the creation of new quarantine passes to be signed by the barangay officials and PNP. The odd-even scheme will also be implemented when it comes to groceries, buying of medicine, and going to the bank or remittance centers. “The new normal obliges us to observe wearing of face mask, social distancing, and regular disinfection,” Sec. Año reiterated.

As a final message, Sec. Año told the barangay officials: “Be the leader and inspiration that our people need. We are fortunate because we have been given the chance during this crisis to provide assistance to our constituents, so let us do good in order to serve the people better,” said Sec. Año. 

For photos, please click here

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