Physicians' group 'not completely happy' with MECQ status for Metro Manila, four provinces

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 3) — The decision to place Metro Manila and four nearby provinces under modified enhanced community quarantine amid rising COVID-19 cases was tepidly received by a group of physicians.

"We are not completely happy with the modified ECQ," Philippine College of Physicians Vice President Dr. Maricar Limpin told CNN Philippines on Monday.

She added, "We are quite happy about it but not very happy. But we are still satisfied with the action of our President."

Medical societies on August 1 made a public appeal to the government to place Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Mimaropa, and Metro Manila under the strictest enhanced community quarantine for 14 days to give medical workers a "timeout" to refine pandemic control strategies. Instead, President Rodrigo Duterte placed Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal under a two-week modified ECQ starting Tuesday.

"We understand that imposing ECQ is a complex decision... health may just be one dimension especially for the economic expert, but remember that we need healthy people to reinvigorate our economy," she said.

The administration has been wary of implementing the strictest ECQ in the capital region despite the surge in COVID-19 cases as it works to restart the economy by gradually allowing businesses to reopen.

The country’s COVID-19 tally went past 103,000 on Sunday, with a record high increase in cases at over 5,000 more recorded.

Metro Manila accounted for 2,737 of these newly announced cases. Over the past two weeks, the region logged over 12,000 new cases — topping the list of regions nationwide, according to the Department of Health’s COVID-19 tracker.

The Philippine College of Physicians said that despite the "compromise" on the quarantine status, it is still ready to work with the government to recalibrate strategies to stop the pandemic from worsening.

Philippine Nurses Association President Dr. Rosie de Leon also said there should ideally be a meeting between IATF members and medical leaders on the field. 

"'Yun po ang panawagan ng mga doctors natin, panawagan din po ng mga frontliners na magakroon po sana ng parang pag-uusap, titingnan po talaga ano ang real situtation, ano po ba ang real problem, at ito po ang ating sosolusyunan," she said.

Healthcare workers revolting vs gov't?

Limpin denied Duterte's claim that healthcare workers are trying to revolt against his administration by publicly airing their grievances instead of writing a letter to the authorities.

"I think we were misunderstood by the government when they say that we are trying to demean the efforts of the government," the official said.

In his speech late Sunday night, he even pointed out that the frontline healthcare workers raised their fists during the public Zoom briefing.

"Next time, you can just ask for an audience. Pero huwag ho kayo mag-sigaw-sigaw ng revolution niyo. Alam mo, sa totoo, alam niyo hindi ninyo ako kilala talaga. Magsabi kayo revolution, then ngayon na. Go ahead. Try it. Sirain natin itong bayan. Patayin natin lahat ng may COVID," he dared the medical workers.

[Translation: Next time just ask for a meeting. Do not go out there calling for a revolution. You don't seem to know me. When you say you want a revolution, I will tell you to go ahead. Let's do it against the interest of our countrymen. Let's kill all those with COVID.]

Limpin defended her colleagues, saying they are simply showing the government the true situation on the ground.

Case spike over the weekend triggered MECQ call

Meanwhile, National Task Force on COVID-19 vice chairperson and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said the surge in cases last weekend that triggered the decision to revert to MECQ, not the letter of appeal from the medical community.

“Even wala pa yung letter na yan, patuloy sa bawat meeting ng IATF (Even before that letter came, it’s being discussed during the meeting of IATF), particularly sa NTF at meeting with President, we are always thinking of ways on how to take care of our health workers,” Año told CNN Philippines.

“It's not really the letter that triggered everything, it's part. Parang nakatulong din yun para bumilis (It helped to speed up things). Kasi naramdaman natin yung hirap and pagod ng ating health workers (Because we feel the difficulty and stress of our health workers). It is always the concern of the President.”