‘MECQ must ease for PH growth’

The country’s socioeconomic planning chief said Monday Metro Manila, currently under a modified Enhanced Community Quarantine until May 14, must ease its lockdown status for the Philippines to achieve its economic growth target this year.

Economic managers had projected 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent growth in 2021 and 8 to 10 percent growth in 2022, after the country’s gross domestic product contracted by 9.6 percent in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua said the capital region, home to a tenth of the country’s population, needed to “move out” of MECQ by the middle or end of May.

He told ANC’s Headstart: “We can’t be in MECQ for the entire year. We have to use these two months very wisely that we are in this bubble to enhance our PIDTR (Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Treat-Reintegrate) strategy so that we can open the economy as soon as we can.

“We have to move out of MECQ, we have to go to GCQ and even better. A big part of that, 95 percent is our own personal behavior and everyone knows already what to do.”

Chua added the Philippines could achieve its growth target if it opened the economy “as safely as we can and not be totally risk-averse,” if it accelerated its implementation of recovery packages, and if it deployed its vaccination program “as fast” as possible.

He said: “The biggest priority right now is to get vaccination implemented as quickly as possible. We are constrained not by our finances but by the global supply,” he said.

COVID updates

The Philippines logged on Monday  7,255 new cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), bringing the total to 1,062,225, as 15 laboratories failed to submit their data on time, the Department of Health reported.

The DOH reported 69,466 active cases, which is 6.5 percent of the total. Of the active cases, 94.7 percent were mild;  1.8 percent were asymptomatic;  1.1 percent were critical;  1.4 percent were severe, and 0.94 percent were moderate.

There were 9,214 newly-recovered patients, bringing the total recoveries to 975,234, which is 91.8 percent of the total.

Death toll was logged at 17,525, which is 1.65 percent of the total number of cases after 94 new fatalities were reported.

75 in India

Meanwhile, nearly 75 Filipinos have caught COVID-19 in India, which is fighting a surge in coronavirus infections, Manila’s envoy to New Delhi Ramon Bagatsing Jr. told a news conference Monday.

India hosts about 2,000 Filipinos, about 80 percent of whom are housewives, while “less than 70” are workers “in the managerial level,” Bagatsing said.

The Philippine embassy “provides as much support as we can” to COVID-stricken Filipinos, said Bagatsing.

India on Monday reported more than 300,000 new coronavirus cases for a 12th straight day, taking its overall caseload to just shy of 20 million, while deaths from COVID-19 rose by 3,417.

But medical experts say real numbers across the country of 1.35 billion may be five to 10 times higher than the official tally.

Referral center

The One COVID-19 Referral Center will have improved services once it transfers its headquarters to a bigger venue, treatment czar Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega said Monday.

Vega said the government already made an agreement to transfer the referral center’s headquarters from the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA)  complex to the Philippine International Convention Center.

“The MMDA complex is becoming small for the number of workers and the number of gadgets that we have for the command,” Vega said during a Palace briefing.

“We hope this will not just be for COVID but even in post-COVID we will have a national referral system all over the Philippines connecting the different hospitals, LGUs for access, and even for financial services that are needed by the patient,” Vega said.

Around 85 more people may be deployed as call center agents to the referral center after passing the interview.

The One COVID-19 Referral Center, previously known as the One Hospital Command Center, connects patients needing medical attention to healthcare providers. Those in need of help may call 02-886-505-00, 0915-777-7777, or 0919-977-3333.

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