A group of doctors on Saturday appealed to the Duterte administration to place Metro Manila and nearby regions under the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) for two weeks, to prevent the healthcare system from collapsing due to a surge in Covid-19 cases.

The Philippine College of Physicians said in a statement the country was “waging a losing battle against Covid-19,” requiring a “consolidated, definitive plan of action.”

The group proposed that the two-week ECQ be used as a “time out” to refine strategies by addressing contact-tracing and quarantine problems.

“Contact tracing is failing miserably… The guidelines must be cascaded to our community leaders, health officers, and local authorities and strictly enforced,” the group said, suggesting a “whole-of-society approach.”

The group of frontliners also pointed to the lack of transportation and workplace safety, stating the former “cannot be addressed by long-term infrastructure plans … [because] workers need more public transportation options to prevent congestion in public streets.”

“The employees and laborers are required by LGUs (local government units) and their companies to have rapid antibody tests, despite [an] international agreement that these antibody tests are not recommended for work clearance, and just lead to missed cases and local outbreaks,” the statement said.

The group also said transitioning to a less stringent general community quarantine (GCQ) had led to the public misperception that “the pandemic is getting better.”

The doctors claimed the country was becoming like “the next New York City.”

Palace spokesman Harry Roque reiterated the decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to retain the status of Metro Manila under GCQ.

“The strict lockdown in Metro Manila has served its purpose, and we need to intensify other strategies. It is for this reason that the [LGUs] of Metro Manila have been directed to implement a [strictly] localized lockdown / [ECQ] in barangays where 80% of cases are located and the publication of these barangays,” Roque said in a statement.

Roque said the community quarantine alone was an “insufficient response” in controlling Covid-19.

“We are scaling up hospital capacity by increasing [the] allocation of COVID-dedicated beds while hiring more doctors, nurses, and medical-personnel,” he said.

In a separate statement, Roque said Duterte had instructed the IATF to act on the doctors’ concerns immediately.

“The Palace considers our skilled, tireless and dedicated healthcare workers as important frontliners in the battle against COVID-19.  We are grateful for their immense contributions to heal our people and our nation during these difficult times.  Your voices have been heard. We cannot afford to let down our modern heroes.  This is our commitment,” he said. Francis David T. Perez