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No more ECQ, Malacañang hopes



The government is hoping that Metro Manila would no longer revert to a strict lockdown for the rest of the year to resuscitate the pandemic-battered economy, the Palace said Monday.

Speaking in his regular press briefing, presidential spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque expressed hopes that this month’s enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) is the final strict lockdown that would be imposed in the capital region.

“Let’s just say that we are hoping. You all know that for every lockdown, we have to adjust our economic forecast,” he said in response to a query whether there would be another ECQ in the metropolis.

“If we will have another lockdown, we may not have positive (economic) growth. We are trying to save the last quarter of the year,” Roque added.

The Palace official likewise acknowledged that hard lockdowns should be a “last resort” due to their economic impact.

He said the government should strengthen its prevention, detection, isolation, and treatment strategies, as well as its vaccination efforts against Covid-19.


Bad numbers

The imposition of ECQ in Metro Manila and other provinces increased the number of poor people by up to 250,000 and the unemployed by 600,000, according to the estimates of the National Economic and Development Authority.

In the capital region alone, about P105 billion was lost to the economy for each week it was under ECQ from 6 to 20 August, since establishments deemed “non-essential” were barred from operating during the period.

Meanwhile, Roque said all beneficiaries or low-income families in Metro Manila affected by hard lockdown who have yet to receive cash aid from the national government would still be given financial assistance even if the capital region was downgraded to modified ECQ.

The national government spent P10.89-billion worth of financial assistance to poor families in Metro Manila affected by ECQ. Similar to the previous lockdown last March and April, each qualified family received cash assistance worth P1,000 to P4,000.


Economy for vaccinated?

Various business groups have proposed to the government to allow establishments to cater to vaccinated individuals to spur economic growth.

While Health Secretary Francisco Duque, backed the proposal, he expressed doubts over the suggestion due to possible legal issues.

Quoting Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, who is also a member of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, Duque said limiting malls, restaurants. and other establishments to vaccinated citizens may be “disenfranchising the unvaccinated.”

“We might be subjected to legal challenges because this (policy) should have a legal basis. And right now, we don’t have (one),” the health chief said on Monday during a webinar organized by Go Negosyo.

“I am just afraid of the legal challenge that the IATF might face and the actual suits that may be filed for disenfranchising the unvaccinated, as they have the need or the right to have mobility as well,” he added.

The government is racing against the clock in terms of vaccination since only 13.19 million Filipinos have received full doses against Covid-19 — which remains far from its target of immunizing 58 to 70 million individuals by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, some 17.49 million people were waiting for their second doses, based on the latest government data.

The Philippines has so far confirmed 1.83 million coronavirus infections, of which 125,000 were active cases.

with Raffy Ayeng