Nalzaro: Lift or extend the lockdown?


MEMBERS of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease, especially health officials and economic planners, are now debating on whether to lift or extend the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) that will end on April 14, 2020 in Luzon. Last March 14, President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire island under ECQ as one of the precautionary measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19). Some local government units (LGUs) followed suit.

The task force’s recommendation will be the basis of the President to decide on whether to lift or extend the lockdown. Health officials insist on extending the lockdown as the present situation warrants. Day by day, test results show that the number of people infected by the virus is rapidly increasing. There are suggestions to extend it to 15 or 20 days or for another two months. Some suggested to continue it, but in a barangay or per LGU basis. Meaning, those areas where there are still Covid-19 cases can continue to implement the ECQ.

In an interview with dzBB Super Radyo Metro Manila, National Task Force chief implementor Carlito Galvez Jr., said the government is currently studying the possibility of extending the ECQ period for 15 to 20 days. “It will be very difficult for the country to rush back to normalcy and that officials are looking into extension to sustain the current ECQ period’s positive effect,” Galvez said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned against countries lifting their lockdowns sooner than they need to out of fear of a second wave of infection. WHO officials said that lifting the lockdown is the “last thing” that the world needs. The lockdown offers a second window of opportunity for towns and cities to flatten the curve of the virus. “If we will lift the lockdown and go back to normal lives, people will no longer observe social distancing and transportation will operate again,” said WHO western pacific regional director Takeshi Kasai.

A county in Central China that lifted its lockdown was forced to impose it again following the resurgence of the virus.

But our economic planners are against the extension as it will hurt our economy. They said extending the lockdown will have a deadly consequence. Imagine that. Millions of people, especially ordinary workers and low-income earners, have already lost their jobs and income, while many businesses are down.

Long-term unemployment is correlated with depression. Family breakdown -— the rise of which is an inevitable consequence of both mass unemployment and the trapping of people in their homes -- has economic and social costs.

India’s lockdown has failed. With a 1.3 billion population, its three-week lockdown has been devastating for the poor even as they struggle with a potential health crisis. Informal workers have been quarantined with no access to food and work and are facing savage brutality by the police. The lockdown has become a humanitarian catastrophe.

I hope it will not happen here when the lockdown is extended for a few months. This is balancing between health welfare and economic repercussions. Can the government strike a balance?


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