The Philippines is in "far worse" shape than it was in 2020, as 23 million people in the Greater Manila Area hunkered down for yet another lockdown or ECQ, one of the country's largest business groups said on Monday.
For one week until April 4, people will be required to stay at home and businesses will either be shut or operating at limited capacity as authorities moved to arrest a surge in infections that resulted to record case loads.
"The response is, this is another lockdown and we have been trying lockdowns since last year, apparently without much success," said Benedicto Yujuico, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Yujuico said authorities should instead strengthen tracing and testing, taking from the success of countries like Taiwan that have tamed the pandemic without the immediate use of vaccines. In high-risk areas, he said testing should be done repeatedly.
"We are in a far worse situation today than we were at the beginning of this year and far worse even than we were in August. Let's just look at that and I think the conclusions we can draw from that are pretty obvious," he told ANC's Headstart.
MORE ON THE 2021 ECQ:
The Philippines has imposed one of the world's longest lockdowns, resulting in the worst recession since World War II and leaving millions jobless.
"The basic things we have to do, all of us, we have to observe the basic protocols... Other than that we need to make sure people are employed, people have money. It is so regrettable to die from COVID, but it is unforgivable to die of hunger."
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, who earlier hailed the Duterte government's virus response as "excellent," said the surge and resulting ECQ should not be blamed on the state.
"It’s not because of government. It’s because of the virus," he also told ANC's Headstart. He cited the UK, South African, Brazilian and Philippine variants that are more contagious.
"That’s something that no one can really... No one could have done anything about it because it’s in the nature of viruses to mutate. What we need to do now is to adapt to these new variants. If they are more transmissible, then we will be more vigilant in our ‘mask, hugas, iwas, and bakuna,'" he added.