Metro Manila, Laguna, and Cebu City will be placed under a modified enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) until May 31, while the general community quarantine (GCQ) will be lifted in 41 provinces and 11 cities across the country on May 16, Palace spokesman Harry Roque said Tuesday.
In a televised press briefing, Roque said Metro Manila, the country’s center of economy, education and government, will still remain under ECQ but with modified guidelines that would allow some industries to reopen in a limited capacity, and will allow people to leave their homes but only to buy food and other basic necessities.
The government is still finalizing which industries will be allowed to resume operations, when the modified ECQ takes effect on May 16.
“We based the decision on science. It is still ECQ but we are opening more businesses to help the economy. But we remain under ECQ because the threat of COVID-19 is still present,” Roque said.
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Roque said the modified ECQ was a "transition phase" from a strict ECQ to a relaxed general community quarantine (GCQ).
The public's movement for accessing essential services and work will remain limited, while face-to-face classes will remain suspended in areas under a modified lockdown.
Local government officials can decide which high-risk barangays will remain under stringent ECQ rules.
“Curfew will still be imposed but depends on the the regulations to be implemented by their respective local leaders,” he said.
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Roque said President Duterte approved the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for Emerging Infectious Diseases to also place Laguna and Cebu City in the Visayas under a modified ECQ to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Roque said no new cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the 41 provinces that will be removed from all quarantine restrictions in the last two weeks.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire said in the same press briefing that the case doubling time, or the time it takes for newly reported cases to increase two-fold, has slowed significantly since the beginning of the outbreak– one of the signs that the COVID-19 curve is starting to flatten.
“A second indicator that the curve is flattening is also the doubling time of the number of deaths recorded,” she said.
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In areas where ECQ or GCQ would be lifted, the DOH strongly advised the public to observe proper physical distancing, sanitizing of workspaces, and identification of symptoms to inhibit the spread of COVID-19.
In a taped interview Monday night, President Duterte warned that the Philippines could not afford to have a second and third wave of Covid-19 infections.
“Remember that the easing up of the restrictions… doesn’t mean COVID no longer exists. Just because we allowed certain people—we should do it slowly so we don’t trip. We cannot afford a second or third wave to happen,” he said.
Amid reports of quarantine violations, he said the protocols laid out by the government to prevent the spread of COVID-19 were for their safety and protection.
READ: ECQ extension in NCR eyed
Duterte said quarantine violators would not only put themselves in danger but others as well.
In the middle of his speech Monday, the President wore a face mask before warning the public not to leave their homes without wearing one.
"Do not go out of your homes without a mask. That is a must. [You] must comply," he said.
The government has made it mandatory for people to wear face masks or any protective gear in public places.
Duterte added that COVID-19 is "very lethal" as he warned the public against risking their lives with getting infected.
Nationwide, there were 11,086 confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease, including 1,999 recoveries and 726 deaths.
Of the total cases, 7,123 or over 62 percent were recorded in the National Capital Region. Cebu City G
The 41 provinces where the GCQ will be lifted after May 16 are: Ilocos Norte; Ilocos Sur; La Union; Pangasinan; Marinduque; Occidental Mindoro; Oriental Mindoro; Romblon; Palawan; Albay; Camarines Norte; Camarines Sur; Catanduanes; Masbate; Sorsogon; Aklan; Antique; Capiz; Guimaras; Iloilo; Negros Occidental; Biliran; Eastern Samar; Northern Samar; Western Samar; Leyte; Southern Leyte; Bukidnon; Camiguin; Lanao del Norte; Misamis Occidental; Misamis Oriental; North Cotabato; South Cotabato; Sarangani; Sultan Kudarat; Basilan; Lanao del Sur; Magindanao; Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
The 11 cities where the GCQ will be lifted are: Dagupan City; Puerto Princesa City; Legazpi City; Naga City; Iloilo City; Bacolod City; Ormoc City; Tacloban City; Cagayan de Oro City; General Santos City and Cotabato City.
Roque said a modified ECQ will allow the operation of selected manufacturing and processing plants with up to a maximum of 50 percent of their workforce.
READ: New infections surge ahead of lockdown expiry
Limited transporting services for essential goods and services will also be allowed under, he added. However, face-to-face classes in all schools will remain suspended.
The IATF resolution also declared a GCQ in eight areas with a moderate risk of infection, namely Cagayan Valley (Region 2); Central Luzon (Region 3); Calabarzon (Region 4-A); Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR); Central Visayas (Region 7) except Cebu City; Zamboanga Peninsula (Region 9); Davao Region (Region 11); and Caraga (Region 13).
Eight areas with low risk of infection will no longer be under ECQ or GCQ. These are Ilocos (Region 1); Mimaropa (Region 4-B); Bicol (Region 5); Western Visayas (Region 6); Eastern Visayas (Region 8); Northern Mindanao (Region 10); Soccsksargen (Region 12); and Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), the IATF resolution noted.
The IATF took into consideration the proposal of Metro Manila mayors to extend the ECQ for another 15 days, Roque said.
Provinces, highly urbanized cities, and independent component cities characterized as low, moderate, and high-risk may appeal their classification to the IATF Screening and Validation Committee not later than May 13, he added.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III is supporting the decision of the government to place Metro Manila and selected areas under modified ECQ, saying going back to the "old normal" will be reckless and expose people to the continuing threat of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, government agencies may provide transportation and accommodation for employees to ensure their safety once mobility restrictions are eased, an official of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) said Tuesday.
In a radio interview over dzBB, CSC Commissioner Aileen Lizada said such support mechanisms allow for an easier working environment in the public sector amid the continuing threat of the pandemic.
She said agencies have the resources, such as vehicles, that can be used in transporting employees who go on a daily commute to and from work.
“We have coasters, vans, which we could use so that government workers need not compete against the commuting public," she said in Filipino.
Lizada suggested that agencies with a limited number of vehicles may hire buses, jeepneys, and vans as a shuttle service for employees if their budget allows it.
Also on Tuesday, the Joint Task Force Corona Virus Shield (JTF CV Shield) urged people who were stranded due to the ECQ not to immediately go back to their hometowns or visit their families once the ECQ is downgraded into a GCQ.
JTF CV Shield commander, Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said the threat of COVID-19 remains high and that some of those eager to go home may unknowingly bring the disease to their towns and loved ones.
On Monday, Metro Manila police met with security officers of malls in Metro Manila to discuss measures when the region shifts to a modified ECQ on May 16.
In a statement Tuesday, NCRPO chief, Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas said the dialogue in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City was attended by representatives of most of the malls to establish a strategy on how to better manage the challenges brought about by the pandemic.
Among the measures proposed is an intensified implementation of social distancing protocol inside common areas.
The proposed distance guide per person is based on a "one person per two square meters floor area" policy. Mall security officers shall compute the maximum persons to be allowed entry based on this measure.
Entrance and exit points will be limited and police visibility will be intensified.
IATF RESOLUTION NO. 35