MANILA, Philippines — The government should adopt a modified enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) allowing the creation of “COVID-free zones” after the current ECQ placed over Luzon ends on April 14, a congressman proposed Saturday.
House Transportation Committee Chair and Samar 1st Dist. Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento said the modification is to allow economic activities in the areas that will be considered free from COVID-19. This will allow such areas to prosper while the virus in cities or municipalities considered as hotspots is contained and isolated.
“This modified system basically means that we will have areas that would remain under ECQ but we will also have areas that will be allowed to open businesses and allow their residents to go back to their normal lives. These areas will maintain a closed border and continue to observe social distancing as extra precaution,” Sarmiento said.
Sarmiento said the provinces of Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, and Kalinga Apayao can be considered as possible “COVID-free zones” for having no recorded COVID-19 cases, as of writing.
To ensure that these “COVID-free Zones” will remain free from any possible infection, the congressman proposed that the borders should remain closed from people coming from areas with cases.
Sarmiento also cited Department of Health (DOH) data showing that there are only 105 out of 771 cities and municipalities in Luzon that have COVID-19 cases. Of the 40 provinces in the entire Luzon including the Metro Manila, meanwhile, only 23 have cases, many of which only have one or two cases.
“We continue to see an upward trend in areas that are hardest hit by the COVID especially the NCR but I am expecting a downward pattern in less dense areas that have managed to identify and immediately isolate those who are infected,” he said. “I am hoping and praying to our Lord Almighty that the number of deaths will remain low and and our people can start going back to their normal lives.”
Sarmiento’s brother, former Interior and Local Government secretary and former National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council vice-chair Mel Senen Sarmiento made the same recommendation on Friday and called it a “two-tiered quarantine system.”
“Where there is presence of [COVID-19] cases, PUM/PUIs, put them under enhanced community quarantine. Places with none, downgrade to community quarantine and after assessing, places with no risk can be downgraded further to normal status,” said Mel Senen in his Facebook post.
“It is intended to enable people to continue to support our economy and provide food to the affected areas without jeopardizing our campaign to eliminate the virus. We will stop COVID-19 in the Philippines but we have to make sure we don’t stop our people’s source of livelihood for it will be a greater problem in the future,” he added.
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