Strict health protocols should remain even if entire Phl shifts to MGCQ, senator says

Robie de Guzman   •   February 22, 2021   •   159

MANILA, Philippines – The strict implementation of minimum health protocols against novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) should remain in Metro Manila and other areas should President Rodrigo Duterte decide on the proposed nationwide shift to modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) by March, a senator said Monday.

The government’s task force on COVID-19 response and economic team, as well as the Metro Manila Council, earlier recommended further easing of restrictions to boost the country’s economy battered by the pandemic. The president may decide on the matter on Monday evening.

In a statement, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian expressed support for proposals to further reopen the economy, arguing that local government units are now handling the pandemic better than they did at the onset of the crisis with the emergence of testing centers and even the emergence of needed software application program for easier contact tracing in their respective localities.

“Kung ako ang tatanungin, ako sang-ayon ako na mag MGCQ na tayo. Mayroon na tayong kakayahan at alam na natin ang gagawin kung mayroong nagkasakit o may nag-positive sa COVID-19. Mayroon na tayong kakayanan. Sanay na tayo,” Gatchalian said.

“Ang pinakaimportante dito sakaling mag-MGCQ na tayo ay tuloy pa rin yung social distancing, pagsusuot ng face mask at face shield. Hindi pwedeng tanggalin yan. Pero pwede nang buksan nang dahan-dahan ang ating ekonomiya dahil isa lang ang gamot para umangat ang ekonomiya natin–buksan natin para pwede nang makapagtrabaho ang marami nating mga kababayan. Pero hindi naman natin pwedeng biglain. So itong MGCQ from 50% gawin nating 70% at tingnan muna natin doon kung ano ang epekto,” he added.

National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Acting Director General Karl Chua earlier proposed to Duterte to place the entire country under the most lenient quarantine status citing the need to revive the ailing economy of the country and mitigate sickness, hunger, poverty, job and income losses that are rising.

Chua likewise proposed the increase of public transport operations from 50 percent to 70 percent and gradually expand the age group allowed to go out.

The NEDA Chief also recommended the resumption of face-to-face classes in low-risk areas.

The OCTA Research Group, however, warned that a premature shift to MGCQ would trigger yet another surge in COVID-19 cases.

Senate probes distance learning quality, deferment of proposed resumption of in-person classes

Robie de Guzman   •   February 24, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – A Senate panel will conduct an inquiry on Wednesday on the quality of distance learning, other psycho-social concerns, and the implications of postponing the resumption of face-to face classes amid the threat of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chairperson of the Senate committee on basic education, arts, and culture, said that during the hearing, he will urge the Department of Education (DepEd) to use all available tools and resources to avert a looming ‘learning crisis’ as part of its next steps in mitigating the “pernicious effects” of distance learning.

Gatchalian earlier expressed fears that a huge chunk of more than 25 million learners in the basic education sector might end up “unprepared” for their next level of schooling.

While DepEd has exhausted all possible steps to provide for continued education amid the pandemic, Gatchalian stressed that several challenges still hound the rollout of distance learning, including the inadequacy of connectivity, lack of enough guidance from teachers, and the quality and effectiveness of self-learning modules, among others.

“Dahil ipagpapaliban muna nating muli ang pagkakaroon ng face-to-face classes, mahalagang magkaroon tayo ng kaliwanagan sa kung ano ba ang magiging pangmatagalang epekto nito sa ating mga mag-aaral, lalo na’t hinaharap nila ang maraming mga hamong may kinalaman sa epektibong pagpapatupad ng distance learning,” Gatchalian said in a statement issued on Wednesday morning.

“Ang ating layunin sa pagpapatuloy ng edukasyon sa gitna ng pandemya ay masigurong natututo ang ating mga mag-aaral at maging handa sila para sa susunod na antas ng kanilang pag-aaral,” he added.

Duterte earlier thumbed down fresh proposals to resume face-to-face classes in areas classified as low-risk for COVID-19 transmission.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque relayed the president’s decision not to allow any in-person classes until the vaccination program has been rolled out in the country.

Roque, however, said that face-to-face classes may be considered in August this year after the launch of the immunization drive.

A pilot test of limited face-to-face classes was supposed to be held by the government last January but was ordered suspended by Duterte due to increasing COVID-19 cases.

NCR mayors, medical experts back Duterte decision on GCQ status

Robie de Guzman   •   February 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Mayors in the National Capital Region (NCR) give all out support to President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to keep the region under general community quarantine (GCQ) classification unless the COVID-19 vaccination program has been rolled out, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) said Tuesday.

MMDA chairman Benhur Abalos said local chief executives in the NCR would ‘rally behind’ the president even if most of them have voted in favor of the proposal to put the region under modified GCQ in March to help revive the country’s economy.

“As what we have always emphasized, the Metro Manila mayors would always defer to the wisdom and judgement of the President,” Abalos said in a statement.

“We are one with him, and would exert all efforts and rally behind him in combating this COVID-19 pandemic,” he added.

The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) earlier recommended the shift to MGCQ to reopen the economy that has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic.

In separate statements, NCR mayors welcomed Duterte’s decision on the matter as they vowed to implement stricter health protocols to curb the spread of the viral disease.

“I am grateful to President Rodrigo Duterte for declaring that Metro Manila remain under General Community Quarantine (GCQ) until the vaccines against COVID-19 are rolled out and made available to Filipinos,” San Juan City Mayor Francis Zamora said.

“We’ve already anticipated what to do, ramping up contact tracing, testing and early detection,” Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte said.

Medical experts from the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, for their part, said that the shift to MGCQ will only be possible if the public will religiously follow the minimum health protocols set by the government.

“Based on previous experience I know that we know that we are not good in self-regulation, is that gonna change once we move into MGCQ? I think that’s the question every Filipino should answer,” Dr. Kathryn Roa said.

“I know that lockdown is hard but I just feel like the minute that we try to relax the lockdown or the quarantine it will somehow translate to people thinking that everything is well and I think they will start not minding wearing the mask, not minding wearing the shield, the physical distancing,” Dr. Faith Villanue said.

They also urged the public not to squander the efforts being put in to fight the pandemic and to continue observing protocols to stop the spread of coronavirus. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Janice Ingente)

Duterte: No vaccine roll-out, no MGCQ

Maris Federez   •   February 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang announced on Monday night that the entire country will not be placed under the more relaxed modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) until COVID-19 vaccines have been rolled out.

“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte gave his directive to the Cabinet that the Philippines would not be placed under modified general community quarantine unless there is a rollout of vaccines,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said.

Roque added that the President is giving a higher premium to public health and safety over the economy.

“The Chief Executive recognizes the importance of re-opening the economy and its impact on people’s livelihoods. However, the President gives higher premium to public health and safety,” he said.

Roque added that the president wants vaccinations to begin at the soonest possible time in order to ease the community quarantine.

According to his former aide, now Senator Bong Go, the President believes that placing the country under MGCQ is not in the best interest of the country.

He added that the Chief Executive cannot, in conscience, allow the shift to more relaxed quarantine restrictions and the resumption of face-to-face classes as something might go wrong.

Despite this, the lawmaker said that the President is confident that “Filipinos and the economic managers will understand the situation”.

The National Economic Development Authority had earlier proposed to have the entire Philippines placed under MGCQ starting March 1 to create a balance between the country’s efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 and the need of Filipinos to start earning and spending. — /mbmf

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