MANILA, Feb 16 (Mabuhay) — The National Economic Development Authority has proposed placing the entire Philippines under the least stringent modified general community quarantine starting March 1 supposedly to balance the country’s response to stop the spread of COVID-19 and the need of Filipinos to start earning and spending.

Placing the entire country under MGCQ was one several measures that NEDA Director General Karl Chua said had been given the nod by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases and that the NEDA was submitting to President Rodrigo Duterte for his approval.

“Kailangan po nating mag-shift sa lalong madaling panahon sa MGCQ for the entire Philippines, sana starting March 1, 2021 para i-address po ‘yong hunger o yung mataas na antas ng mga Pilipinong nagugutom,” Chua said in Duterte’s weekly televised briefing.

Chua said the country incurred a P1.04 trillion income loss in 2020 or P2.8 billion per day due to the quarantine restrictions since March 2020.

On average, he said the annual income loss per worker was P23,000.

“Ang recommendation po namin, dapat ibalanse natin. Di naman po natin sinasabi na ibukas lang po natin ang ekonomiya at ‘wag na nating pakielaman ‘yong COVID-19 cases,” Chua said.

“Kailangan po natin both at nakita po natin, nagbukas po tayo last October at dumaan po ang Christmas vacation, ‘di naman po umakyat ang COVID cases,” he added.

Chua said localized lockdowns in the barangay or municipal level can be used to address the local spread of the virus.

“The main reason po is gusto na nating ma-mitigate o mabawasan ‘yong sickness, hunger, poverty, job and income loss that are arising from non-COVID cases,” Chua said.

The other proposals that the NEDA suggested and that the IATF approved for Duterte’s considerations included:

  • increasing the capacity allowed in public transport from 50 percent to 75 percent;
  • complimenting public transport with active transport via bike lanes;
  • allowing more provincial buses to operate;
  • expanding the age groups allowed to leave their homes from 15 to 65, to five to 70; and
  • resuming the pilot-testing of face-to-face classes.

Chua said expand public transport from 50% to 75% capacity would result in more people being able to return to work.

“To compliment public transport with active transport support tulad ng bike lanes kasi marami na pong Pilipino ang nag-shift to biking to work or to avail of their basic commodities when they buy goods,” Chua said.

He also said there is a need to increase inter-province bus operations as many workers who returned to their provinces during the enhanced community quarantine were not able to come back to their work due to lack of transportation.

Chua asked Duterte to approve face-to-face schooling in low-risk areas and expand the age group who are allowed to go out. He proposed that the age group should be from 5 to 70 years old.

“Puwede nating gawing dahan-dahan with appropriate safeguards. Puwede lang lumabas ang kabataan with their parents or they can go out to open areas,” Chua said.

“Kung puwede pong lumabas ang kabataan with safeguards, it will allow their parents to work,” he added.

The research group OCTA said there was no spike in the number of cases of COVID-19 even after the Christmas holidays and the Feast of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo.

However, the research group made up of academics from the University of the Philippines and the University of Sto. Tomas expressed concern over the planned reopening of moviehouses in March.

The Philippines has logged 550,860 cases including 11,517 deaths and 511,755 recoveries as of Monday afternoon.

Philippine health authorities have confirmed the presence of the more infectious UK variant of COVID-19, which the Department of Health has said entered the country as early as December last year.

Department of Health spokesperson Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said there was still not enough evidence that there had already been a community transmission of the UK varian.

There are now 44 who have been detected with UK variant in the Philippines.

Vergeire  assured the public that the government had placed “safeguards” to curb the transmission of COVID-19.

The Philippines aims to vaccinate up to 70 million Filipinos this year with the rollout expected to begin this month.

According to the government’s vaccination roadmap, health workers and frontliners from select government offices will be the first to receive the vaccine, followed by indigent senior citizens, other senior citizens, and other indigents. (MNS)

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