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Monthlong GCQ For Metro Manila, Four Other Areas; MECQ For Iligan

Monthlong GCQ For Metro Manila, Four Other Areas; MECQ For Iligan

The government has placed Metro Manila and four other areas under the lenient general community quarantine (GCQ) and has imposed a partial lockdown in Iligan.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said on Monday night, Aug. 31, that the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases recommended that Metro Manila remain under GCQ along with Bulacan, Batangas, Tacloban City and Bacolod City.

Bulacan, Tacloban City and Bacolod City were reverted to GCQ from modified GCQ or MGCQ.

Iligan, meanwhile, was placed under the stricter modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ). The city's officials had asked the regional task force dealing with the pandemic to allow them to return to enhanced community quarantine or ECQ, the strictest lockdown scenario due to rising coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infections. Previous reports said 21 of the 44 barangays in Iligan have recorded third-degree local transmissions.

The rest of the country will be under the most lenient MGCQ.

Instead of just two weeks, the new quarantine classifications will be effective for the whole month of September, the beginning of the festive season in the country due to the upcoming Christmas holidays.

Officials previously said placing regions under lockdowns is no longer sustainable as it would harm the economy and disrupt livelihoods. They are instead eyeing the localized implementation of quarantine measures to contain COVID-19 transmission while reopening the economy.

Earlier, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Metro Manila mayors, whose areas account for more than a third of the Philippines' economic output, wanted the capital region to remain under GCQ and were in favor of shorter curfew hours.

Under GCQ, public transportation services are allowed but on a limited capacity and most industries can operate partially. Only up to 10 persons who can join gatherings to ensure that physical distancing is observed.

Roque said there were also suggestions to downgrade Metro Manila to MGCQ because of its economic contributions but this was apparently not feasible.

Roque previously disclosed Metro Manila’s case doubling rate is nine days while the requirement for an area to be placed under MGCQ is 28 days. Under MGCQ, more sectors like tourism can resume operations and more modes of mass transportation are permitted. Restrictions on public gatherings are also relaxed.

Roque said mayors have also proposed that the start of the curfew be adjusted to 10 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. Local chief executives of the National Capital Region imposed uniform curfew hours of 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. last Aug. 19. Only Navotas City wanted to retain the present curfew hours, Roque added.

Asked if the President would agree with the proposal to adjust curfew hours, Roque said it would depend on the decision of local governments.

"It won't be immediate because they (local governments) still have to amend their ordinances. Other local governments have given the mayor the authority to change the curfew hours through executive order," the Palace spokesman said.

The Philippines has logged more than 220,000 COVID-19 cases, the highest in Southeast Asia. The pandemic has plunged the economy into a recession or two consecutive quarters of economic contraction, the first in 29 years. Officials have expressed confidence that the proposed stimulus packages and the easing of quarantine restrictions would allow the economy to recover.

More sectors allowed to open

Establishments offering personal grooming services, review and tutorial centers, and gyms will be allowed to open starting Sept. 1 in Metro Manila and other GCQ areas, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) announced earlier on Monday.

It was also DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez who first said during the Laging Handa briefing that the IATF was discussing the possibility of having a longer period of one month for the community quarantine instead of just 14 days to provide some stability among businesses in this time of the pandemic.

“Those sectors like personal grooming services, testing, tutorials, review centers, gyms, they will proceed with opening beginning...Sept. 1,” Lopez bared.

“As agreed with Metro Manila mayors, for gyms, fitness centers and sports facilities, the specific guidelines, including operating capacity and more specific health protocol requirements shall be issued by each LGU (local government unit),” he said in a Viber message.

For internet cafes, Lopez explained the timing of the reopening, as well as the specific guidelines, including operating capacity and more specific health protocol requirements shall be issued by each LGU.

“The other newly opened sectors can reopen up to 30 percent operating capacity, or as stipulated in the guidelines per sector,” he said.  – With Louella Desiderio