Doctors: 15-day MECQ is Philippines’ last ‘time out’ in COVID-19 fight

Published August 4, 2020 1:03pm; Updated August 4, 2020 2:23pm

The 15-day ‘time out’ starting August 4 to 18 — a period when modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) will be implemented in Metro Manila and other nearby highly urbanized areas to slow down COVID-19 cases — will be the nation’s last time out amid the COVID-19 threat, doctors said Tuesday.

Doctors from the Philippine College of Physicians and other organizations made this clear after President Rodrigo Duterte recognized their distress call to shore up the healthcare system and its workforce, timely grant health workers their benefits, improve contact tracing, among others, as COVID-19 cases breached 100,000 over the weekend.

“Consider this as the last time out. Wala na tayong ibang time out. We really have to maximize the last days of our MECQ and do teamwork,” Dr. Jose Santiago of the Philippine Medical Association said in a webinar.

“We are singing the same tune, the same song. Hindi revolutionary song. What we have is a song for unity. We have to learn from the mistakes [in the government’s COVID-19 response]. Those weaknesses, we have to look for ways to strengthen them,” Santiago added in an apparent response to the President’s comment where he accused health professionals of making a spectacle of their agony and calling for a “revolution” in asking for a timeout.

Under the MECQ, mass transport and non-essential work is prohibited to restrict the movement of people.

Dr. Maricar Limpin of Philippine College of Physicians agreed, saying that such time out is crucial because the Philippines cannot lose the fight against COVID-19.

“This is the last time out. Hindi na tayo puede magtawag ng time out ulit, kaya dapat magawa na dapat natin ang lahat sa loob ng [15] days,” Limpin said.

“Ang assurance po namin sa publiko, hindi ho kami matatalo ng COVID-19 because that would be a loss to the nation. Kaya hindi po kami puede matalo,” Limpin added. 


Dr. Lei Alfonso of Philippine Society of Public Health Physicians, for her part, said that the next 14 days are crucial because this could also mean unearthing more COVID-19 cases that need treatment.

“Itong two weeks, it is not enough to reverse all the problems in our health system. What we can do is determine the lapses, because these are opportunities where each sectoral agency can contribute to make sure that the trend is reversed,” Alfonso stressed.

“Asahan po natin, siyempre pag nag improve ang contact tracing system, tataas ang cases, mas madaming trabaho, pero ibig sabihin rin gumagana ang ating intervention. Pag nakikita na natin kung nasaan ang mga kaso na di natin nakukuha before, mare-reverse ang trend,” Alfonso added.

Baguio City Mayor and retired police official Benjamin Magalong, the country’s contact tracing czar, earlier said that only 0.068% of over 8,000 local government units (LGUs) have an established contact-tracing capability.

Magalong has been giving training to LGUs nationwide to improve the contact tracing capabilities of LGUs amid the COVID-19 pandemic. — RSJ, GMA News