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End-May lifting of MECQ in NCR Is key to growth–NEDA

ATTAINING the 6.5- to 7.5- percent target this year would not be possible if Metro Manila and nearby regions remain in Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ), according to the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).

In a television interview on Monday, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua said Metro Manila should move out of MECQ by the end of May in order for the economy to speed up GDP growth this year.

“We have to move out of MECQ by the middle or end of the month;  we cannot be in MECQ for the entire year. Last year we were in a combination of GCQ, MECQ and ECQ,” Chua said.

“We have to use very wisely these two months that we are in this bubble to enhance our PDITR strategy [prevent, detect, isolate, treat and recover] so that we can open the economy as soon as we can and that is really the focus of the government,” he added.

Chua said 95 percent of the effort needed to move out of these quarantine restrictions depend on Filipino’s behavior. Wearing masks and face shields; keeping social distancing; and going out of the home to work or to buy essentials should be maintained.

“All of us will have to cooperate for this to happen. It’s not a magic solution that the government or someone can just deliver,” Chua stressed.

Meanwhile, Chua also said the government is learning a lot from its experience with the pandemic last year. He said last year, due to fears of the contagion spreading, the government decided to shut down 75 percent of the economy and kept all Filipinos at home—which led to the economy contracting 9.6 percent last year.

Chua noted that this year, the government even decided to allow public transport to continue operating unlike last year. He added that while there was a curfew, all workers were exempted and allowed to continue going to work.

He also said restaurants were allowed to open this year, even with the imposition of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ). He said restaurants were allowed to provide dine-in services through al fresco dining.

“In other words, what we are doing now, instead of shutting down the economy, or a big part of it, we are managing the risk. We closed down the sectors or the areas with the highest risk and allowed 98 percent of the people with no Covid symptoms to continue working,” Chua said.

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