With a little more than a week left before the scheduled end of the Philippines’s strict community quarantine measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the country is expected to find out on Thursday how the government plans to transition out of the lockdown.
On Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte met former health secretaries, experts and other legislators to discuss the possibility of extending the lockdown with modifications to allow selected non-essential businesses to resume operations or to lift it entirely.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said “a total lockdown” had been ruled out, allaying fears that more restrictive quarantine measures would be put into place after the April 30 deadline.
Duterte is set to reveal what he plans to do on April 23.
Last month, the Philippines implemented a 30-day “community quarantine” across the entire island of Luzon, after new COVID-19 cases began to spike and the health department confirmed local transmission.
Similar lockdowns have been initiated in other parts of the country, bringing the economy to a standstill.
RJ Ledesma, an entrepreneur, saw revenue from his food business and events hosting gigs plummet to zero after the lockdown was declared.
Along with some other entrepreneurs, Ledesma started the Bounce Back Philippines Facebook page for other business owners and gig workers on how to position themselves as the pandemic continues to batter the economy.
“The biggest concern is when we can reopen the economy. We all know it’s going to have to be a balance between health and profits,” said Ledesma.
“We need to see more testing and ensure that cases are not increasing. The last thing we want is a resurgence of new infections,” he added.
Did we flatten the curve?
According to a study by the University of the Philippines, the lockdown along with other safety measures like social distancing may have reduced the number of cases by 83 percent.
“It now takes a little longer for the number of confirmed cases to double in number. What took three days for the total number of cases to double now takes about six days,” the study says.
“We have flattened the curve but what we want is to crush the curve to ensure that we have really controlled the spread of the virus,” said Eduardo Ano, interior secretary and vice-chairperson of the National Task Force for COVID19.
The World Health Organization (WHO) released conditions for governments that want to start lifting lockdown restrictions which include controlling transmission, ensuring capacity to test, isolate cases and trace contacts, minimising risks in vulnerable spaces like nursing homes and preparing communities to live with social distancing.