MANILA (UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte is placing the National Capital Region and 4 of its neighboring provinces under general community quarantine (GCQ) beginning Monday until April 4, with additional measures, Malacanang said Sunday.
Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal are placed under GCQ with additional specific restrictions amid the spike in new COVID-19 cases, as recommended by the inter-agency task force, according to Presidential spokesman Harry Roque.
"Wala po tayong lockdown... Hindi po iyan hard lockdown kasi bukas ang ekonomiya. But it is a restriction on movement kasi ang iniiwasan nga po natin na kumalat pa sa labas iyong mga new variants na nasa Metro Manila na at mga karatig na probinsiya," Roque said in a virtual briefing.
(We are not imposing a lockdown... This is not a hard lockdown because the economy remains open. But it is a restriction on movement because we are preventing the spread of the new variants that are already reported in Metro Manila and its nearby provinces.)
"Magkakaroon po tayo ng parang bubble dito sa NCR at probinsya ng Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna at Rizal... Pupuwede kayong bumiyahe anywhere freely between... these areas. Pero hindi pupuwedeng lumabas, hindi puwedeng pumasok. Ipatutupad po natin iyan sa pamamagitan ng checkpoints," he added.
(NCR, together with the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal, will be in a bubble... Anyone authorized to travel in these areas can do so freely. But you can't go out, and nobody can get in. We will have checkpoints to implement this.)
In Resolution No. 104, the IATF for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases set the following measures, among others, in the said areas:
- Only essential travel into and out are allowed. But public transportation will remain operational at such capacities and protocols already approved.
- All mass gatherings, including religious gatherings, are prohibited.
- The holding of face-to-face meetings are highly discouraged.
- Holding of weddings, baptisms, and funeral services are limited to 10 persons.
- The private sector is enjoined to adopt similar alternative arrangements as those already in place in the executive branch of government, i.e. 30 - 50 percent operational or on-site capacity.
- Dine-in restaurants, cafes and establishments shall be limited to delivery, take-out, and any outdoor or al fresco dining shall be allowed, provided that additional engineering and administrative controls are put in place.
- Visiting persons outside their immediate family or other households is strongly discouraged.
- Even at home, the wearing of masks for the elderly and the vulnerable and for the rest of the household is strongly advised.
"Lahat ng kabataan, at lahat ng seniors, sa bahay po muna tayo. Lahat po iyong mayroong tinatawag na immunodeficiency, comorbidity or other health risk ay dapat nasa bahay na rin, kasama po ang mga buntis," Roque said, although senior citizens who need to work or get some essential needs, and exercise are exempted.
(Any one below 18 years old, or 65 and above should stay at home. All those with immunodeficiency, comorbidity or other health risk should also stay at home.)
With Holy Week falling within the implementation period of the specific restrictions for Metro Manila and the 4 provinces, Roque said anyone from these areas are prohibited from going to other provinces, unless it is an "essential" trip.
"Sana po maintindihan ng lahat na this is for the common good. Alam po natin na talagang nagplano na kayo at talagang you are looking forward to this Holy Week break. Pero, kung papayagan po tayo ng unimpeded travel ngayon ay talagang mapapabilis ang pagkalat ng mga new variants," he said.
(I hope everyone understands that this is for the common good. We know that you may have planned already and you are looking forward to this Holy Week break. But if we allow unimpeded travel now, the spread of the new variants will be faster.)
Air travel is also limited only for essential trips, he added. "Ang turismo po, uulitin ko, is a non-essential activity," said Roque.
(Tourism is a non-essential activity.)
The country reported a record-high 7,999 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, surpassing Friday's record of 7,103 infections. It happened over a year since the lockdown was enforced in the country, the longest in the world, and while vaccination against the coronavirus had kicked off.
On Sunday, 7,757 new infections were reported, the 2nd highest daily tally, so far.
Cumulative total cases climbed to 663,794, of which, 73,072 or 11 percent are active cases. The death toll stood at 12,968, accounting for 1.95 percent of the total reported cases.
March's latest outbreak, which includes the more transmissible variants, is still concentrated in congested Metro Manila, home to 12 million people.
Based on the breakdown of ABS-CBN Data Analytics team, the capital region recorded most of the new cases on Saturday with 4,059 confirmed infections.
Quezon City topped again the areas in the Philippines in terms of new cases that day with 870 infections, and was followed by Manila with 689.
Roque said the Department of the Interior and Local Government is mandated to ensure local government units adhere to and complete protocols for isolation and quarantine before reintegrating into the community a person who has recovered from COVID-19.
Hospitals need to increase their reserved beds for COVID-19 patients at 30 percent, if private, and 50 percent, if public, he added.
Metro mayors have reimposed beginning last week a 2-week unified curfew to control the surge of infections, with localized lockdowns also in place in areas with saturated COVID-19 cases.
Common curfew from 10 p.m. up to 5 a.m. in the newly-identified GCQ areas is imposed, under IATF Reso. No. 104.
The coronavirus task force last week also suspended the operation of some businesses and reduced the number of people allowed in religious gatherings and conferences in GCQ areas.
Roque said the latest guidelines allow essential industries to remain operational, subject to minimum public health standards, and cargo vehicles should not be impeded.
He said only the following are temporarily not allowed to operate: driving schools, traditional cinemas, video and interactive game arcades, libraries, archives, museums, cultural centers, cockpits, gyms, and internet cafes.
Meanwhile, the national vaccination program will continue, said Roque, with 1 million vaccine doses purchased by the government from Sinovac expected to arrive on March 29, as well as additional supply from AstraZeneca coming in early April at the latest.
The government plans to inoculate 70 million adults this year in a bid to achieve herd immunity against the coronavirus.