There is a marked increase in COVID transmission in Metro Manila, but it cannot be described yet as a surge, according to health officials. And without a surge, the officials see no need for a two-week “hard lockdown” that the OCTA Research Group is suggesting to nip in the bud the spread of the more virulent Delta variant.
The hard lockdown as a circuit breaker is supported by businessmen led by presidential adviser for entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion as well as the Department of Finance and National Economic and Development Authority.
On the other hand, the Department of Trade and Industry says the economy cannot bear a hard lockdown. The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, for its part, wants a one-week leeway to prepare for such a circuit breaker particularly for producers of essential goods.
As a compromise, President Duterte has reverted the National Capital Region to “heightened” general community quarantine for the first two weeks of August, from the current regular GCQ. He should hope the situation does not deteriorate into a crisis similar to the one that hit the NCR last summer, when the government was also slow in declaring a surge attributed to the more infectious variants from the United Kingdom and South Africa. As infections and swift deaths soared, the government was forced to revert the NCR and several provinces to modified enhanced community quarantine.
Delta, first detected in India, is several times more infectious than the other variants. The Philippines has seen how Delta rampaged in India and is now wreaking havoc in Indonesia and Thailand. Yesterday, 97 additional Delta cases were recorded nationwide, with 88 contracted locally, bringing to 216 the total. Eight Delta deaths have been recorded so far, with infections documented among ages ranging from less than a year to 79 years.
Proponents of the early circuit breaker lockdown say it is meant to save the Philippine economy in the fourth quarter – a peak period for consumption and production – from the impact of any COVID surge at this time. The government has ignored these arguments and chosen its course. The nation can only hope it is the right one.