Senator Sherwin Gatchalian is recommending the extension of the flexible modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) over the National Capital Region after the presence of the Indian coronavirus variant was detected in the country. 

Initially, Gatchalian supported the loosening of the current quarantine classification to general community quarantine (GCQ) for the economy to recover from the lockdown. 

However, the senator changed his mind after news of the double mutant variant of COVID-19, which originated from India, was confirmed to have reached the Philippines. 

“The more we loosen up, the more we will grow, the more jobs will be created. However, that thought changed when I saw the new variants or the double variant landed on our shores,” Gatchalian shared Tuesday (May 12) in an interview with CNN Philippines

According to Gatchalian, retaining MECQ over the NCR Plus bubble is the best strategy to undertake at the moment, noting it’s been effective in lowering new case numbers of COVID-19. 

Besides this, he also pointed out that the loosening of safety protocols – allowing dine-in and gatherings – may lead to another surge in cases.

“Going back to our experience last February, March, these variants can be the cause of increased space for infections in our communities. So I would recommend extended MECQ until the end of the month until we arrest and contain the double variant that came into our shores,” he explained. 

“The dining in and gatherings are known as catalysts for infections and we need to keep these shut for now because of these new variants,” Gatchalian stressed. 

On Tuesday (May 11), the Department of Health (DOH) confirmed the presence of the Indian B1617 variant of the coronavirus in the country. 

After conducting genome testing on samples taken from returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) – two tested positive for the foreign variant. However, the health agency assured that both cases have now recovered and that close contacts show no signs of contracting the virus.

The positive cases arrived in the Philippines before a temporary ban was imposed for foreign arrivals from India, which lasts until May 14. The DOH says the individuals – a 37-year-old who arrived from Oman and a 38-year-old who came from the UAE – had no travel history in India.

You can watch the full interview below.

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Image credit: CNN Philippine’s Official Website