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Metro lockdown may be eased by mid-May — Palace spokesman

THE GOVERNMENT would probably ease the lockdown in Manila, the capital and nearby cities and provinces by mid-May as coronavius infections get under control, according to the presidential palace.

The lower critical care use rate could also be a factor in easing the modified enhanced community quarantine, presidential spokesperson Herminio L. Roque, Jr. told a televised news briefing on Monday.

“I will not second-guess the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases but pursuant to the formula, it is possible,” he said.

Mr. Roque said the use rate for intensive care unit (ICU) beds in Metro Manila fell to 68% from 70% in recent weeks, showing that the critical care use rate had moderated.

He said 62% of ICU beds for coronavirus patients in the country have been used. About 44% of isolation beds have been used and 49% of ward beds were occupied. He added that 42% of ventilators in the country have been used.

Mr. Roque said 46% of isolation beds and 50% of ward beds in Metro Manila were occupied, while about 51% of ventilators have been used.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte would announce the new quarantine status for Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna and Cavite before it expires on May 14.

Meanwhile, an inter-agency task force placed the provinces of Cagayan, Apayao and Benguet in northern Philippines under a modified lockdown for two weeks starting May 10.

The reimposition of an altered lockdown was made due to surging infections in the areas, according to a resolution adopted by the body.

Meanwhile, Mr. Roque said the construction of a vaccination facility in an urban forest managed by the Nayong Pilipino Foundation is consistent with the President’s police power and aimed at protecting Filipinos’ right to health.

The government-owned and controled corporation earlier opposed the plan of a foundation owned by tycoon Enrique K. Razon, Jr. to put up a vaccination site on its property, citing environmental and health risks.

Citing a presidential decree, it said it is illegal to allow a private entity to operate and manage a government property.

Mr. Roque reminded the management of Nayong Pilipino that as a state company, it is under the President’s supervision.

“Hopefully, their decision won’t conflict with the important mission to protect the life of our fellowmen,” he said in Filipino.

Lucille Karen Malilong-Isberto, the state company’s executive director, has resigned amid the controversy.

Mr. Duterte last month extended the second strictest lockdown level enforced in Metro Manila and nearby provinces by another two weeks amid a fresh surge in coronavirus infections.

The modified enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna and Cavite was extended until May 14.

The President said he had to extend the modified lockdown to ease pressure on hospitals that were near breaking point.

The altered lockdown was also enforced in the provinces of Quirino and Abra and Santiago City in Isabela in northern Philippines until the end of May.

The provinces of Apayao, Baguio, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga and Mountain Province in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and the provinces of Cagayan, Isabela and Nueva Vizcaya in Cagayan Valley were placed under a general community quarantine.

Batangas, Quezon, Tacloban City, Iligan City and Lanao Del Sur were  also placed under a general lockdown. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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