Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año (PNA file photo)

With less than two weeks remaining on the extended enhanced community quarantine being implemented all over Luzon, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) is set to start another round of discussions this week on whether to recommend extending or lifting it, Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año said on Sunday.

Año said the task force is due to hold discussions on Monday with epidemiologists, scientists, and mathematicians who will be making presentations during the meeting.

“They are going to present to us what we call the COVID-19 disease epidemiology. We are going to take into consideration whatever recommendation and conclusion that they would present tomorrow,” he said in a TV interview.

“It’s still too early to say whether we are going to extend or lift the ECQ on Luzon because we still have I think 11 days, 12 days to go. We need more data,” he added.

He said several other factors will be considered by the task force such as the country’s health system capacity and the economic and social aspects of the ECQ before the task force makes a recommendation to President Rodrigo Duterte.

Año said the task force may submit its recommendation to the President on April 25.

“Of course, it will be the President who shall decide whether the ECQ will be lifted, or modified, or partially lifted or even extended,” he said.

Año, a member of the IATF-EID, said extending the coverage of the ECQ to include other areas outside Luzon is also possible.

“That’s also an option. Right now, because only Luzon is under lockdown, we give the discretion to the local government units as long as they are consulting with the Department of Health and with the DILG,” he said.

Some local government units in Visayas and Mindanao have declared their own ECQ after President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire Luzon under such a state on March 17.

Meanwhile, Año said a total lockdown will be implemented in areas where there are rampant violations of the Luzon-wide ECQ.

President Duterte said on Thursday that he was inclined to impose a martial law-like lockdown while expressing frustration over the growing number of violations of the ECQ.

“We are not going to implement that in the whole country but only on those severely affected areas, we may do that…martial law-style in those areas where there are rampant violations of the lockdown,” said Año.

He said more soldiers and policemen will be deployed in those areas as a “social distancing team” whose mission is “to make sure that people stay home and will not violate the ECQ or the quarantine.”

“We are going to make sure that converging places like private and public wet markets are actually sealed off, both entry and exit, urban poor communities where houses are really (congested), people in crowded areas and community areas. We are going to put a lot of soldiers and (policemen),” Año said.

“There will be an additional presence of uniformed personnel and of course with the help of local government officials to ensure that people will stay home and violations are not permitted,” he added.

On Saturday, Philippine National Police chief, Gen. Archie Gamboa, said the police force supports President Duterte’s intention to “decisively enforce a total lockdown for the entire period” under the ECQ after the number of violators hit over 100,000 nationwide.

He said some local officials have agreed to impose tougher measures against the lawbreakers.

“Some violators feel they can get away with the enforcement of quarantine rules and local ordinances. I call on all regional directors to put action to the strong words of the President. I expect all of you to support this,” Gamboa said in a statement.

He also ordered a massive crackdown on illegal activities violating the physical distancing policy and gathering of persons such as illegal cockfight, card games, mahjong, and drinking sessions in public places. (PNA)

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