Members of the interagency task force tackling the Covid-19 pandemic in a meeting at Malacañan Palace last month. (PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO)

The task force on top of the Covid-19 response is considering recommending at least a 15-day extension of the Luzon-wide enhance community quarantine, which ends on April 12.

The month-long quarantine is on its third week, and top officials, including Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo and several lawmakers, are in favor of an extension given the continued rise in the number of infections.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, the task force spokesman, told radio station DZBB that recommendations would be based on “scientific data and evidence,” and President Rodrigo Duterte would make the final decision.

“Opo kasama yan sa pag uusapan namin, para makagawa na kami ng rekomendasyon kay Pangulong Duterte, dahil ultimately si Pangulong Duterte naman ang magdedesisyon. Kami po sa task force ay magrerekomenda ng aming, ng aming recommendation base po sa scientific data and evidence at findings mula sa ating mga ekspertong mga epidemiologist, mathematicians, academe, at iba pang mga eksperto dito sa pagbasa ng trend, `yung epidemiological trend, `yung ating health capacity, health system capacity system natin, `yung social economic at security concerns, so itong lima na aspeto ay titingnan namin sa pag gawa ng rekomendasyon kay Pangulong Duterte.”

The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases approved five parameters for the lifting, partial lifting, extension or expansion of the quarantine last week.

READ: Task force OKs 5 parameters for lifting or extending Luzon quarantine

Early on Sunday, however, Nograles said data from three models presented to the IATF last week remained inconclusive as people who recently tested positive were considered to have been infected two weeks ago at most, well after the start of the quarantine period on March 16, 2020.

“So ang nadesisyunan po namin dahil nga ang hirap pong gumawa ng desisyon ay inano muna namin, pagpaliban muna namin itong weekend na ito, Saturday Sunday para balikan lang namin ito tomorrow, sa Monday. By that time, may mga bagong mga numero, may mga panibagong mga data na makikita natin at yung trend na makikita natin, kung meron man na nangyari ngayong weekend. Kumbaga dagdag numero at data na maaaring isama dun sa studies na ginagawa ng ating mga eksperto. Kasi tatlong models kasi yung pinakita nila sa amin, iba iba yung findings ng models eh. So based dun sa model at based dun sa doubling rate, acceleration rate atbp, iba iba yung findings nila kasi di ganun ka conclusive.”

Palaca spokesman Salvador Panelo said the president was “all ears and eyes” for recommendations from experts.

VP, senators support ECQ extension

Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo and some senators backed proposals to extend the quarantine to contain the transmission of the coronavirus.

Robredo said she would support a decision to extend the lockdown as long as the government would be able to communicate clearly to the public the reason of this measure and give assurance to them that there would be enough relief for affected families.

“Sang-ayon ako dahil sa nakikita natin na projection. Makakabuti na i-flatten ‘yung curve kung hahabaan pa ito,” Robredo said in an interview on the ABS-CBN News Channel.

“Crucial na naiintindihan ng tao kung bakit kailangan ito gawin. Kapag hindi nila naiitindihan, ‘yung resistance nandyan. Number two, ‘yung kanilang basic na pangangailangan ay naaasikaso,” she added.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian also backed a two-week extension to allow more time to analyze the results of the massive testing on April 14.

Gatchalian said lifting the quarantine before the date of the mass testing would compromise the reliability of test results and would only fast-track the spread of the Covid-19.

“Without mass testing, we are totally blind. And when we are blind, the risk is higher of spreading the virus again, thereby wasting the 30-day Enhanced Community Quarantine,” Gatchalian said.

“Bagama’t may ilang araw na lamang ang natitira bago magwakas ang enhanced community quarantine, nakikita nating patuloy pa rin ang pag-akyat ng bilang ng mga pasyenteng may Covid-19 sa bansa,” he added.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon also favored the extension of the enhanced community quarantine to April 30.

“We are only beginning to see data of symptoms post-quarantine. And I see some data that shows it is effective. But too early to tell. An extra two weeks would help,” Drilon said.

He said food supply and operations of essential goods and services must be ensured during those two weeks.

“We can consider relaxing ECQ during May 1 to May 30. Still no travel to and from Luzon. Still no malls, churches, mass gatherings,” Drilon said.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said it would be best to relax the enhanced community quarantine when new cases of Covid-19 have continuously declined.

“Determine from public health scientists when the infection rate is manageable or less than one. Only then can you transition to relaxing ECQ. How long? Depends on how fast government does its work and be ahead of the virus,” Recto said. (RJ Espartinez,