Photo By: Athena Paz/Makati ICRD
Government orders seniors and children to stay home, restricts business operations, and limits non-essential travel to and from Metro Manila and four provinces. Except if you’re playing golf
President Duterte on March 21 placed Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal under General Community Quarantine (GCQ) and imposed added restrictions to stop an alarming surge in COVID-19 infections. The new restrictions took effect March 22 and are expected to end on April 4.
The Department of Health (DOH) recorded 7,757 new cases on that day, raising the total tally to 663,794. If not contained, independent researchers predict that the daily cases could reach as high as 11,000 by the end of March. Hospital facilities in Metro Manila are also seen as reaching full capacity by Holy Week.
The restrictions came more than a year after the capital region and other key cities in Luzon were placed under quarantine after health officials confirmed that the virus - which originated from Wuhan, China - has reached our shores.
The Palace refused to call the new restrictions a lockdown, instead describing their move as putting Metro Manila and the four provinces under a “bubble.”
But the “bubble” allows certain activities which may be considered purely for leisure and are non-essential.
In a Facebook post, Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla shared a list of activities allowed in his province. It included swimming, leisure day trips, and golf.
“Number 13. Golf courses are open to those from NCR, Laguna, Rizal at Bulacan. Magpakita lang ng ID at course booking sa checkpoint,” the post said.
Likewise, the Department of Tourism (DOT) clarified that staycations in hotels, with age restrictions, are allowed during the two week-bubble.
Golf and staycations are activities identified with the middle and upper classes.
Government said it expects a 25 percent drop in cases after the two-week period, but health experts like Dr. Tony Leachon are not as optimistic.
Leachon, a former adviser of the National Task Force Against COVID, wrote in his Facebook page:
“Social mobility is a key factor in viral transmission and thus the new IATF guidelines will perhaps reduce the cases but not stop or slow down the surge significantly.”
On Twitter, he proposed a “blitzkrieg plan” to stop the surge in cases:
“We need a blitzkrieg plan. Something urgent. Blitzkrieg, (German: “lightning war”) is a military tactic calculated to create psychological shock and resultant disorganization in enemy forces through the employment of surprise, speed, and superiority in matériel or firepower.”
In another tweet, Leachon said: “The surge is due to premature opening of the economy through relaxed restrictions leading to social mobility fuelled by the entry of variants. Without hard lockdown and limiting social mobility, how do we slow down the virus? The new plan might cause protracted economic recovery.”
“Government miscalculation is a generous description at this point” - Dean Ronald Mendoza, Ateneo de Manila University School of Government
Economists interviewed by BusinessWorld attributed the renewed surge to the miscalculation of economic advisers who had pressed for an early easing of restrictions on travel and economic activities.
“Government miscalculation is a generous description at this point. It presumes they are even attempting the math,”Dean Ronald Mendoza, Ateneo de Manila University School of Government,
said in the report.
He added: “All earlier indicators and forecasts suggested systems were still not ready even after a year of lockdown. They need the humility to ask the private sector and academia for help.”
The former dean of the University of the Philippines School of Economics, Ramon Clarete, was quoted as saying: “They miscalculated the risk of the variant in a community waiting to be vaccinated but eager to step out from restrictions. They overestimated the trend of falling cases before this spike.”
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