President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Monday night approved the extension of the General Community Quarantine (GCQ) in the National Capital Region and Bulacan province from June 16 to June 30 with "some restrictions."
The Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19 also placed the provinces of Laguna, Cavite, and Rizal in Region 4-A under GCQ with "heightened restrictions" from June 16 to June 30.
Aside from the so-called NCR Plus under a GCQ with restrictions, a total of 19 areas are under a “regular” GCQ and 21 other areas were put under a stricter Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ).
The President also approved the extension of travel restrictions imposed upon India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, United Arab Emirates, and Oman starting June 16 to June 30.
Although the Palace had yet to fully explain what "some restrictions" means, the previous guidelines for areas under "GCQ with restrictions" limited seating capacity in indoor and outdoor dining establishments at 30% and 50%, respectively.
Also, religious activities, including weddings and wakes, are restricted to 30% capacity, with the local government given the option to increase the allowed level to 50%. Personal care services not requiring removal of face masks are allowed at 30% capacity, with an additional 10% if the shop obtains a safety seal.
Other areas under GCQ from June 16 to June 30 are Baguio City, Kalinga, Mountain Province, Abra, and Benguet in the Cordillera Administrative Region; Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, and Quirino in Region 2; Batangas and Quezon in Region 4-A; Iligan City in Region 10; Davao del Norte in Region 11; General Santos City, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, Cotabato, and South Cotabato in Region 12; and Lanao del Sur and Cotabato City in BARMM.
Areas that shall be placed under the Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) from June 16 to June 30 are the City of Santiago and Cagayan in Region 2; Apayao and Ifugao in the Cordillera Administrative Region; Bataan in Region 3; Lucena City in Region4-A; Puerto Princesa in Region 4-B; Naga City in Region 5; Iloilo City and Iloilo in Region 6; Negros Oriental in Region 7; Zamboanga City, Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga del Sur, and Zamboanga del Norte in Region 9; Cagayan de Oro City in Region 10; Davao City in Region 11; and Butuan City, Agusan del Sur, Dinagat Islands, and Surigao del Sur in CARAGA.
All other areas shall be placed under a Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) starting June 16 to June 30.
Earlier in the day, the Palace said Metro Manila and four nearby provinces would be placed under a “normal” general community quarantine (GCQ) starting June 16.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said NCR Plus will shift to a “normal” GCQ to ease quarantine restrictions amid a decline in new COVID-19 cases.
He also said that NCR will have shortened curfew hours of 12 a.m. to 4 a.m. starting Tuesday, June 15.
Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Benhur Abalos has announced that the Metro Manila mayors agreed to adjust the curfew hours over the metropolis from the previous 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.
In a press briefing, Roque said it is unlikely that NCR Plus would be put under a modified GCQ because of the continuing high numbers of COVID cases.
“The problem is our numbers have yet to return to that level before the emergence of the new coronavirus variants," Roque said.
He also said that before the detection of new coronavirus variants in the country, Metro Manila was recording about 1,000 new COVID-19 cases daily. Even then, Metro Manila was never placed under MGCQ.
Roque said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) recommended placing NCR Plus under a “normal” GCQ to President Rodrigo Duterte.
NCR Plus, which is composed of Metro Manila, Rizal, Bulacan, Cavite and Laguna, was placed under GCQ “with restrictions” starting June 1 until June 15.
Also on Monday, the OCTA Research group said Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental is the “area of most serious concern” due to its high COVID-19 case growth rate.
In its latest monitoring report, OCTA said Dumaguete logged a 129 percent one-week case growth rate and an average daily attack rate (ADAR) of 69.85 cases per 100,000 population during June 7 to 13, making it an “extremely high risk” for COVID-19.
Areas with more than seven cases per 100,000 population are classified as high risk by the DOH.
OCTA also said 68 percent of hospital beds and 84 percent of ICU beds in Dumaguete were occupied.
The group flagged Iloilo City, Butuan, Tacloban, and Polomolok over their increasing COVID-19 cases, high hospital occupancy rates, and ADAR.
The Philippines logged 6,426 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, bringing the total number of infections to 1,322,053, as 10 laboratories were not able to submit their data on time, the Department of Health (DOH) reported.
The DOH reported 57 new fatalities, bringing the COVID-19 death toll to 22,845.
The DOH also reported 7,145 persons who recovered, bringing the total recoveries to 1,240,112.
There were 59,096 active cases as of Monday, of which 91.8 percent were mild, 3.9 percent were asymptomatic, 1.3 percent were critical, 1.8 percent were severe, and 1.28 percent were moderate.
The DOH also reported that, nationwide, 58 percent of the ICU beds, 47 percent of the isolation beds, 48 percent of the ward beds, and 36 percent of the ventilators, were in use.
In Metro Manila, 47 percent of the ICU beds, 37 percent of the isolation beds, 33 percent of the ward beds, and 34 percent of the ventilators, were in use.
A group of doctors, however, urged the government to defer the easing of quarantine restrictions.
Dr. Maricar Limpin, president of the Philippine College of Physicians, (PCP) said it would be better for the NCR to maintain its GCQ with heightened restrictions instead of reverting to a total lockdown when cases again surge.
“Although the number of COVID-19 cases are low versus those in March or April, there are still many patients in the ICU,” Limpin told ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo in Filipino. “We see many who are suffering from severe to critical cases. We would expect this to continue.”
“We need to slow down, let's not ease the quarantine measures just yet because it's harder to return to total lockdown,” she said.
Limpin also urged the government to send assistance to provinces facing a surge of COVID-19 cases and to tighten local governments' borders.
Despite the PCP warning, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the IATF may allow closed businesses to partly reopen while waiting for accreditation to the government’s Safety Seal program.
“We are proposing this to the IATF. We observed that many businesses that do not have the Safety Seal yet are desperate to open up. They may be allowed to reopen at 20 percent capacity while observing the minimum health protocol. Capacities will increase by another 10 percent once they have the Safety Seal,” he said Monday.
Lopez added that since the Safety Seal is a voluntary act on the part of the business owner, and not a requirement by the government, all businesses may resume operation, anytime.
The Safety Seal assures consumers of safe and sanitized facilities inside an establishment or business. It gives consumers the confidence to transact business out of their homes, Lopez said.
“While this practice helps improve consumers’ confidence, it also builds business confidence. We’re trying to balance the slow reopening of the economy with our health and safety concerns,” he added.