Late in the evening of Aug. 2 (nearly midnight, while a lot of Filipinos are fast asleep), President Rodrigo Duterte held a public address to announce a 15-day modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) effective on Aug. 4 in Metro Manila, Bulacan and Calabarzon. During a media briefing today, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque sought to clarify some of the points from the late-night address such as the president’s choice words for health workers whom he advised to go “soul searching” and details on the MECQ implementation which he wasn’t able to relay.
Here are some of the highlights from the briefing for those who have given up on watching the entire thing live.
‘Time out’ for health workers
“I have heard the call of different groups from the medical community for the 2 weeks ECQ in Mega Manila. I fully understand why you health workers would like to ask for a timeout period. Kung walang tutulong sa bansa at mga kababayan natin, sino ang maasahan ko?” said Duterte last night.
Department of Health (DOH) spokesperson Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire revealed the three steps that the government is taking in order to address the demands of health workers in the National Capital Region. These include creating a substitution team to give them a chance to rest, deploying health workers from regional offices and hospitals and creating a program for private healthcare professionals who wish to extend their help.
Apart from that, DOH is about to execute localized lockdowns with the help of COVID-19 CODE teams which she says will be similar to DOH’s polio campaign last year. DOH personnel will be coordinating with local government units and local healthcare workers to carry out house-to-house active case finding until MECQ is lifted.
Usec. Vergeire also shares that they are coming up with a recalibrated strategy to beat COVID-19. She says that DOH will be meeting with the Alliance of Healthcare Professionals this afternoon so they can start implementing the new plan by Friday.
Claims of a healthcare workers-led revolution
A big question on everybody’s mind last night was where Duterte got the idea that health workers want to stage a revolution. He won’t be on a long spiel about how health workers should extend their patience and how they shouldn’t ask for Secretary of Health Francisco Duque to step down. “Iyan ang mas delikado sa COVID. Eh kung mag-revolution kayo, you will give me the free ticket to stage a counterrevolution. How I wish you would do it,” he addressed health workers.
Roque explained that Duterte perceived the threat from a letter penned by Philippine College of Physicians President Mario Panaligan and supported by other health organizations calling for a more consolidated plan against COVID-19. “Talagang nauna pa ang webinar kaysa sa pagtanggap ng Presidente sa liham,” he said. “Lahat ng tao alam na ang liham ng frontliners, ang hindi na lang nakakaalam ng liham ang mismong President.”
He added that the tirade was also due to health workers, along with Senator Frankling Drilon and Vice President Leni Robredo, calling the government’s response “a failure” and a “revolution song” (“Do You Hear The People Sing?” from “Les Misérables”) circulating which is hinting calls to unseat President Duterte.
Healthcare workers’ benefits and cash aid
Another point from last night’s address was how Duterte kept repeating that we have no funds (despite our country’s P9.05 trillion debt by the end of June). Will Filipinos receive a sizeable amount from the money borrowed by the government soon?
Asked whether healthcare workers will be receiving well-deserved benefits, Roque answered, “Kailangan iyan isama sa Bayanihan 2. Meron pa namang pagkakataon kasi hindi pa tapos ang proceedings sa mababang kapulungan.”
Concerning the possibility of receiving cash aid under MECQ, he simply said, “Majority ng second tranche ng ayuda ay narelease na. Congress will have to provide funds para sa third ayuda.”
No public transport
Roque clarified that public transportation will not be allowed to operate under MECQ except for shuttle services and P2P (point-to-point) transport buses that will give priority to health workers. He said that the government plans to provide free shuttle rides for health workers in the Greater Manila Area.
Duterte has approved the issuance of work and quarantine passes. Among those allowed on the streets are personal vehicles, cars, e-scooters and bikes. Public buses, trains and planes are not permitted to operate. Motorcycle backriding is also prohibited once again.
Non-essential services to be closed again
Businesses allowed under MECQ are those under the agriculture industry, forestry and fisheries, groceries and convenience stores, as well as takeout and delivery services.
Among those that will be forced to halt operations are dine-in restaurants, non-essential construction projects, barbershops, salons, gyms, review centers and entertainment centers. Read the full list of businesses allowed to operate here.
For more information on the difference between MECQ, GCQ, and MGCQ, the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson has posted these informational cards.