AMID NEW VIRUS VARIANTS, NEDA PUSHES FOR FURTHER IMPROVEMENT IN PDITR IMPLEMENTATION TO MAXIMIZE EFFECTIVENESS OF ECQ EXTENSION

A more intensified implementation of the Prevent, Detect, Isolate, Treat, and Recover (PDITR) strategy is key for the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) to be more effective in reducing COVID-19 cases, said the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

“The latest data shows that we are at a critical juncture. Our collective actions today will spell the difference between containment and further spread of the virus. ECQ alone does not reduce the spike in the COVID-19 cases. The solution is to further enhance our implementation of the PDITR strategy with clear targets to achieve. This will help reduce the spike in COVID-19 cases given the new variants,” said Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua.

Chua noted that the PDITR strategy worked between August 2020 and February 2021 when the country was able to reduce cases to below 2,000 per day, which allowed for the gradual opening of the economy. However, with the new variants, the implementation of the PDITR strategy needs to be further intensified.

Last April 3, 2021, 12,576 new cases were recorded with a positivity rate of 21.1 percent. The standard positivity rate is less than 5 percent according to the World Health Organization. On the same day, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases recommended the one-week extension of the ECQ in the National Capital Region (NCR), Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal (collectively known as NCR Plus), making it a total of two weeks from March 29 to April 11, 2021.

“It is crucial for all of us to take advantage of this period to increase the effectiveness of the ECQ by further enhancing the implementation of the PDITR strategy. Containing the virus starts from one’s self. By washing hands frequently, wearing masks even at home, staying at home during ECQ, and practicing social distancing when outside to buy essential goods, we can all help contain the virus,” the NEDA chief explained.

He added that on the part of the government, the following key interventions will be pursued: first, increase and improve the health systems capacity; second, improve the communication strategy; third, accelerate vaccine deployment for the vulnerable sectors; and lastly, ensure that all sectors are equipped with the skills to transition to the new normal.

Chua explained that with more stringent quarantine standards during the ECQ period, the country stands to benefit from lower number of cases and deaths from COVID-19.

“Between March 31 to May 15, 2021, an additional week of ECQ is estimated to help avert 215,320 cases, of which 6,460 are severe and critical. We can also prevent 4,026 COVID-19 deaths,” Chua said.

Moreover, in using this time to significantly upgrade the country’s health systems capacity, where testing and isolation are intensified, the benefits would be even greater at additional 323,262 COVID-19 cases that may be averted, of which 9,698 are severe and critical, while preventing 6,045 deaths from COVID-19.

Nevertheless, extending the ECQ will also have a negative impact on the majority of people. NEDA estimates that the two-week ECQ would result in some 252,000 more individuals without jobs and 102,000 more poor individuals. On top of these, the more stringent quarantine in NCR Plus translates to a daily household income loss of 2.1 billion pesos or almost 30 billion pesos for the two-week period. All in all, the two-week ECQ may shave off 0.8 percentage points from the country’s full year economic growth in 2021.

“ECQ alone does not reduce cases. It simply buys time. Thus, we need to further intensify testing, tracing, quarantine, isolation, treatment, and vaccination,” Chua said.

“Enforcing minimum health protocols and monitoring compliance, building more isolation facilities, accelerating vaccine deployment to the vulnerable sectors, and implementing the additional social amelioration program are all needed,” he added.

Also, Chua underscored that the unhampered transition to the digital economy and the new normal, both for government agencies and businesses, should be further promoted in order to limit physical interactions, as well as enable continued operations and delivery of goods and services.

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