Iloilo to exit ECQ on May 16 but…

By Joseph B.A. Marzan

Iloilo province will lift the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) after May 15, 2020 but will continue to implement measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), according to Governor Arthur Defensor Jr.

This, as Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on May 12 announced that the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) has classified the entire Western Visayas region as a ‘Low Risk’ area for COVID-19.

According to Department of Health (DOH), classification of risks is based on the Case Doubling Time, or the length of time that the number of cases accelerates; and the Critical Care Utilization Rate, or the rate at which the capacity of healthcare facilities in the area are utilized.

Low Risk areas have a Case Doubling Time of more than 30 days, and a Critical Care Utilization Rate of less than 30 percent.

Areas under the ‘Low Risk’ classification are directed towards Containment Preparation, which entails empowering communities and enforcing minimum health standards for Low Risk areas such as continued social distancing, wearing of face masks, and handwashing.

Roque said the classification of the region as ‘Low Risk’ meant that highly urbanized cities, independent component cities, and provinces may lift its ECQ and GCQ designations, but must maintain minimum health standards.

Health officials warned that the quarantine will be re-imposed if COVID-19 infections surge once more.

Iloilo has been under the ECQ since March 20, after Defensor issued Executive Order (EO) No. 080.

Originally set to expire on April 14, the ECQ was extended to April 30 via EO No. 102 issued on April 8.

The current iteration of the extended ECQ via EO No. 110 was issued on April 30 after further recommendation by the IATF-EID.

In a radio interview, Defensor said the region’s downgrading from the community quarantine was a welcome development.

“That is a welcome development because it means that our efforts have bore fruit. We are already in low risk and that’s about right because our records show that our [confirmed COVID-19] patients have already recovered. We are only waiting for the [RT-PCR test] results of our remaining patients who are asymptomatic. This is because of the cooperation of the people and because of what we have been doing,” he said.

He added that he will coordinate with Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas and other local government units in the region to harmonize their next moves.

“What we want to know is which quarantine procedures we can adopt now as a ‘Low Risk’ area without the need for a community quarantine. We will coordinate with all our fellow LGUs so we can move in a singular direction. We will have to determine whether or not we can still impose border restrictions in the province, and if there is still need for that.”

Defensor will also meet with mayors today, May 13, to discuss the province’s direction.

“We will meet with our mayors tomorrow. The meeting was initially to present our Executive Order on the GCQ because that’s what we were anticipating as our next level, but tomorrow we’ll go ahead to discuss what we’ll do next,” he said.

Defensor said that despite the lowered classification, there are still other tasks at hand to further protect the province from COVID-19.

“We cannot just let our guard down. We will not relax because the problem is not yet over. [COVID-19] is still in the country. There is still so much work needed to be done. We still have to prepare for our returning OFWs and those stranded in ‘High Risk’ areas of the country. Quarantine procedures entail that the disease shouldn’t be able to enter and we will see that through. If people from ‘High Risk’ areas enter, that would be dangerous and cases might rise again,” he said.

The governor said the new EO will be issued on May 14.

DOH data indicated that as of May 12, Iloilo province has 18 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with three active cases, 11 recoveries, and four deaths.