ECQ a balancing act between lives and livelihood–Sherwin


SENATOR Sherwin Gatchalian gleans the Duterte government’s two-week Enhanced Community Qurantine (ECQ) Covid lockdown in Metro Manila as a “great balance act between lives and livelihood.”

In an interview with DWIZ over the weekend, Gatchalian said, “We are balancing people’s lives and their livelihood. He added, partly in Filipino, “So, in my view, [the] timing is right, and I see that this second ECQ this year is different from the 2020 ECQ where everything was closed and there was no public transportation.”

He reminded the people that unlike before, “now, restaurants are open but dine-in is banned, and public transportation is available but limited only to 30-50 percent passengers allowed, depending on type of public transport.

“So, in other words,” Gatchalian added, “people are allowed to go to work. As for the businesses, they are also open though limited, and those entities allowed to operate were predetermined. So this ECQ we have now is different.”

Compared to previous lockdowns, he said, “I’ve seen that something we learned is this: one major spreader of the virus is the dine-in, the eating together and the celebrations. This is where it easily spread because we take off our masks when eating; so in my view, this timing is just right.”

Asked if the protocols and restrictions imposed by the Duterte administration are enough or still insufficient to contain the surge of the Delta variant, the senator replied: “From experience, if  you remember this March, just before the Holy Week we had an ECQ, that was  effective. Our cases went down. If this Delta variant weren’t around, our cases should keep declining, but because od Delta, our number of cases soared.”

He noted, however, that in his view a plain lockdown is still not enough, citing contact tracing, among others. “In my view, honestly what is still badly lacking is the contact tracing. We still don’t have a unified contact tracing. Only a handful of LGUs have a unified contact tracing.”

Gatchalian griped that unlike Singapore and Taiwan, the  government still needs to install “a contact tracing app.”

Reminded that additional funds were made available for rehiring contact tracers, Gatchalian stressed this should have been automated. “I don’t believe in the concept of using manual contact tracing. It should be automated, or an app should be used. Because it’s hard. One time I sat in on our contact tracing here in Valenzuela. It is so hard to be calling people, sometimes one patient has 20, 30 people [he/she got exposed to]. This method is so tiring. So it’s important to use technology, an app, to expedite the tracing.”

He added that the automated tracing option is “faster and cost-effective.”

A second serious gap in the current response he still sees is the method for the vaccine rollout. “There should be a booking system like what they did in Makati and in Valenzuela. The walk-in is not good because we lack vaccines. And we should use this ECQ to ramp up the vaccination. But not walk-in. Let’s not allow people to bunch up in one place because this further spreads the virus.”

Moreover, he suggested that MMDA and DILG make it mandatory to have a booking system in accepting applications. “The application is not complicated. If we can book a Grab, then we certainly can book a vaccine. So let’s make it mandatory otherwise, people will have a miserable time. I’ve seen the pictures, some were waiting in floodwaters, and some were jostling. I read that some were there as early as 9pm the day before. They waited for almost 8 hours just to get a jab. That system is inhumane.”

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