Authorities are finally espousing a shift to “granular” or isolated lockdowns from region- or province-wide quarantines. The switch from a more crippling enhanced community quarantine is the more logical approach—the virus spread can be better contained in hotspot areas where there are clustering of cases than virtually shutting down an entire region or city.
Perhaps, a neighborhood lockdown is the more appropriate term for this strategic approach. Zeroing in on neighborhoods, alleys or streets with Covid-19 spikes will help the government in its testing, contact tracing and treatment job better. Locking down households or a small part of the community will prevent the infection from spreading beyond its border and spare the rest of the community, city, town or region for that matter.
I am glad to learn that the Department of the Interior and Local Government is now inclined toward granular lockdowns that are limited to subdivisions, streets or a few houses, instead of region- or province-wide quarantines. I am hoping that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases will formally approve the recommendation of a sub-technical working group led by the Department of Health.
Several government agencies have reached a consensus that neighborhood lockdowns may be the better option in dealing with the virus spread than a wide ECQ, which failed to contain Covid-19 spikes. Palace spokesman Harry Roque was quoted last week as saying the shift was “approved as a principle” and that the government had been moving in this direction.
Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman Benjamin Abalos Jr. is also now favoring granular lockdowns in Metro Manila. As we have seen in the past few weeks, the ECQ and its modified version closed down many business establishments after restricting the mobility of the people. It stopped workers from doing their job and wreaked havoc on the Philippine economy. But it failed to arrest the virus spread because Covid-19 hotspots or clusters were not given enough attention.
Such neighborhood lockdowns are not new. Some 3,040 households have already been placed under granular lockdowns, per the report of Mr. Abalos last week. I have heard personal stories of neighborhood and household lockdowns in Sison and Pozorrubio in Pangasinan province, Sta. Maria in Bulacan and some towns in Cagayan, where virus cases have sharply increased.
Doing away with the debilitating ECQ will reopen our economy and restore the jobs of those who were displaced by the rigid quarantine measure. Job generation in a vibrant economy is still the best solution to hunger, which, unfortunately, is being spawned by business closures under the ECQ.
The vaccine, of course, is our way out of this pandemic. We are making little progress in the vaccine rollout due to constraints in supply. But I am confident the government will eventually procure enough jabs for us to reach herd immunity toward the end of 2021 or early next year.
The Department of Finance reported to President Rodrigo Duterte that 195 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines were expected to arrive by the end of 2021, or more than enough to cover the entire population. This is reassuring and gives us reason to be optimistic.
The Philippines so far has administered around 33.7 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines nationwide. Around 13.8 million have been fully vaccinated out of our total population of 110 million, while close to 14 million have received the first dose as of August 29.
The Department of Health has assured our lawmakers that reaching the herd immunity target of 77 million Filipinos, or about 70 percent of the population, by the first quarter of 2022 at the latest is possible, assuming 500,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses are being administered daily from the current average rate of 426,653 doses per day since August 1.
We are still seeing a spike in Covid-19 cases but I believe the numbers will eventually go down as soon as we vaccinate more people and enforce strict neighborhood lockdowns.
I am becoming more optimistic because of what appears to be a declining trend in our Southeast Asian neighbors. Indonesia has reduced its daily Covid-19 cases to below 10,000 from a high of over 50,000 in July, while those of Thailand have plateaued to just over 14,000 in the last four days last Friday from above 20,000 a week ago.
I am sure the daily cases in the Philippines will follow the same downward trend. If we can strictly enforce granular lockdowns, all things will eventually fall into place.