MANILA, Philippines — Several groups are not in full agreement on the proposed relaxation of quarantine restrictions in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, Metro Davao, and the provinces of Bulacan, Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Pampanga, and Rizal or the NCR Plus 8.
For its part, labor group ALU-TUCP said downgrading quarantine classifications would be favorable as it would resume office and on-site works.
However, the group said the implementation of health and safety protocol must be strictly observed and maintained in order to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“Nangangamba kami ng baka bumalik na uli tayo doon sa napakaraming mga kababayan natin at nakaparaming bilang ng mga manggagawa ang mahawa sa coronavirus disease,” said ALU-TUCP Spokesperson Alan Tanjusay.
“Nakita natin doon sa mga bus terminal halimbawa sunod-sunod ang mga araw na ang daming mga manggagawa ang nakapila. Naba-violate ang mga safety protocols natin,” he added.
Meanwhile, employers are concerned about how prepared the government is should the COVID-19 cases surge, specifically in terms of mass testing, isolation, and treatment of patients. If that happened, they said hospitals would be overwhelmed anew.
“Kung magluluwag at babalik na naman dito at maghahabol na naman sila, iyon ang problema. Sayang ang pagluluwag at delikado pagka ganun,” argued Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr, president of Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP).
“Pero kami talagang gusto namin tuloy- tuloy ang pagluwag dahil hirap na hirap na ating ekonomiya at ang ating mga kababayan,” he added.
Private hospitals are still struggling with the current number of COVID-19 patients.
The Private Hospitals Association Philippines (PHAPI) said it could agree with the easing of quarantine restrictions provided that the minimum health standards are strictly imposed.
“Halos wala na masyado na talagang critical occupancy, bumabalik na tayo doon sa dati. Medyo tumataas pa rin nang konti doon sa below high risk, “ said Dr. Jose Rene De Grano, PHAPI President.
The Department of Health (DOH), on the other hand, said they have no records at present of any hospital having a high utilization rate of its intensive care unit (ICU).
“Pero sa ngayon nakikita natin iyong ating mga ospital sa Metro manila ay manageable lahat at wala pang risk level na mataas at lahat ay nakapag- decongest na from the last surge that we’ve had,” noted Health Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire.
Former Special Adviser of the National Task Force against COVID-19 Dr. Tony Leachon, in the meantime, suggested that the government should observe the situation on the ground first before deciding on relaxing restrictions.
He noted that COVID-19 cases in NCR Plus are still high and other regions like Western Visayas, Davao and Zamboanga are also experiencing the spike.
It would be better, he said, to heighten border controls in between cities or regions to curb COVID transmissions.
“Kung luluwag tayo sa Maynila yun na nga lang inaasahan natin tapos babagsak din together with the other Western Visayas and Mindanao areas, ang hirap naman Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao meron kang three epicenters,” Leachon explained.
Experts from the OCTA Research Group also support the extension of a much stricter quarantine restriction in the NCR Plus 8 area.
“In the NCR, the GCQ must continue with stricter monitoring and compliance to minimum public health standards. Given the downward trends, further calibrated easing of restrictions for certain businesses can be considered provided these establishments comply with health and safety protocols of the government,” the group said in a statement.
“Further, the national government needs to accelerate implementation of the NCR plus vaccination plan,” it said. -MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)