MANILA, Philippines — The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) is backing proposals to have the entire country placed under the most relaxed modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), saying it could harmonize regulations implemented by local government units.
DILG spokesman Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said further easing quarantine restrictions through MGCQ would address, among others, conflicting travel regulations in different provinces and localities.
“We need the regulations to be streamlined and placing the country under one classification would help in the on-going harmonization. We need to take a hard look if the regulations we impose are consistent with scientific data on prevention of COVID-19 transmission,” Malaya said in a statement yesterday.
He explained that there is a need to remove what he called redundancies and impose less stringent requirements for domestic tourist travel, while managing health risks at the same time.
He emphasized that the less restrictive quarantine classification would not mean abandoning health protocols but simply streamlining regulations to revive the economy and bring back jobs.
The DILG is already working with the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP) on streamlining regulations for domestic travel to encourage tourism and revive the sector as well as the nation’s economy in general.
Some P1.04 trillion in income has been lost since the imposition in March 2020 of enhanced community quarantine, the strictest lockdown.
This roughly represented P2.8 billion in salaries lost, or an annual income loss of P23,000 per worker.
The domestic airline industry has also asked the DILG for help since they have accumulated some P47.4-billion net income loss as of September last year.
A DOH official in Central Visayas has said shifting to MGCQ should be accompanied by sufficient preparations as well as strict adherence to health protocols.
“We cannot always be scared and hide behind our fears… We in the Visayas, we have long been in MGCQ and we know that COVID-19 is here so we learn to live with the virus,” Mary Jean Loreche, spokesperson for DOH-Central Visayas, said in an interview with The Chiefs on Cignal TV’s OneNews.
Central Visayas has been under MGCQ since September 2020 and the number of COVID-19 cases there has been high.
Recently, the Philippine Genome Center found two “mutations of concerns” in 31 swab samples from the regions that were subjected to genome sequencing.
These are the E484K and N501Y associated with the South African and United Kingdom variants of COVID-19.
But the DOH underscored it is premature to link the increasing cases of COVID-19 in the region to the presence of the two mutations, as investigations are still going on.
Loreche said shifting to MGCQ is important to strengthen the health care capacity so that it can cope with the possible rise in cases.
“It is expected that cases will increase when MGCQ is in place. It is important to make sure that health care needs of those who will get sick and will need hospitalization will be met,” she said.
She also added the “’step down facility” or the isolation or temporary treatment and monitoring facilities should also be strengthened to accommodate the mild and asymptomatic patients.
“There must also be a close collaboration between the health care and other stakeholders like the local government so that appropriate health protocols can be implemented,” she maintained.
Loreche said the public should also strictly comply with health protocols such as proper wearing of face masks, hand washing or sanitizing, physical distancing, among others. “Also, COVID-19 is staying with us; get ourselves vaccinated,” she added. – Sheila Crisostomo