MANILA (5th UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte has approved placing areas in the NCR Plus bubble under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) from Monday, March 29, until Sunday, April 4, due to the new surge in COVID-19 cases, Malacañang said Saturday.
In a televised announcement, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte approved the recommendation due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases supposedly driven by the local presence of coronavirus variants.
The NCR Plus bubble that will be under ECQ consists of Metro Manila, as well as Cavite, Laguna, Bulacan, and Rizal provinces.
Several sources earlier said the IATF recommended that the ECQ should start Sunday, March 28, but Roque said Duterte approved the start of the NCR Plus ECQ on Monday, March 29.
A week's lockdown will be enough, Roque said, because restrictions have already been placed in the areas under NCR Plus.
"One week will of course help, pero 'wag kalimutan na we already have restrictions in place for the past week. Itong ECQ natin is for the 2nd week of a two-week period kung saan tayo ay nag-impose na ng tighter restrictions. Malalaman lang natin ang resulta sa two weeks na ito sa susunod na two weeks," he explained.
(This ECQ is for the 2nd week of a two-week period where we impose tighter restrictions. We will know the results of this two-week ECQ in the next 2 weeks.)
6 P.M. CURFEW
People aged below 18 years old and over 65 years old will not be allowed to go out during the ECQ period, according to Roque, with a curfew from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. to be enforced in the affected areas.
Travel passes will not be required, according to the announcement.
Malls, meanwhile, will remain open to allow purchase of essential goods in groceries and pharmacies.
Restaurants, meanwhile, will be closed even if they have an al-fresco or outside dining set-up, and only take-out orders will be allowed, according to Roque.
Financial assistance to affected residents will also be provided, but specific details will still be discussed in the IATF's Monday briefing, said Roque.
Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado is expected to submit the final recommendations on the financial assistance package.
"Bumalik po tayo sa ECQ dahil masyado pong mataas ang numero ng mga nagkakasakit... naiintindihan natin na kapag hindi natin pinagtrabaho ang lahat, kinakailangan pong magbigay ng tulong. So handa naman po magbigay ng assistance ang ating gobyerno," he said, noting that the financial aid would be provided before the end of April.
(We returned to ECQ because of a high number of people getting infected with COVID-19. We also understand that if we will not allow people to work, we need to provide aid. We are prepared to provide assistance.)
Essential priority construction projects by the public and private sectors will be allowed to continue, with guidelines from the Department of Public Works and Highways.
Road, rail, maritime, and aviation transport will also continue to operate per the Department of Transportation's (DOTr) health protocols.
Roque, however, pointed out that public transportation would be suspended. Bikes will be allowed.
ESTABLISHMENTS, PERSONS, ACTIVITIES ALLOWED TO OPERATE UNDER ECQ
Roque said public and private hospitals, medicine and medical equipment manufacturers will be allowed to operate with full operational capacity.
Among the industries included allowed to operate at full capacity are the following, based on IATF's Resolution No. 106-A:
- Agriculture, forestry, and fishery and their workers, including farmers, ARBs, fisherfolk, and agri-fishery stores
- Health, emergency and frontline services
- Delivery and courier services transporting food, medicine, or other essential goods
MAX 50% OPERATIONAL CAPACITY
Private establishments (essential goods and services)
Media establishments and their total permanent staff complement
Workers accredited by the DOTr
- Other medical, dental, rehabilitation, and optometry clinics, pharmacies or drug stores
- Capital markets
- Veterinary clinics
- Water supply and sanitation services and facilities
- Banks, money transfer services
- Energy and power companies
- Telecommunications companies, internet service providers, cable television providers
- Airline and aircraft maintenance, pilots and crew, and employees
- Manufacturing companies and suppliers (construction works, such as cement and steel)
- The Philippine Postal Corporation, PSA, BPOs, Export businesses, Printing Presses
- Funeral and embalming services
- Humanitarian assistance personnel from civil society organizations, NGOs, UN-Humanitarian Country Teams
- Security personnel
- Pastors, priests, rabbis, imams or such other religious ministers (conduct of necrological or funeral rites)
- Real estate activities limited to leasing only Repair and maintenance of machinery and equipment
'HIGH TO CRITICAL RISK LEVELS'
The announcement of a stricter lockdown came as hospitals in the capital region continue to be filled up due to new coronavirus cases, with the utilization rate of COVID-19-dedicated beds and intensive care units reaching high to critical risk levels.
Malacañang added that the week-long stricter lockdown would provide reprieve for the country's hospitals and medical workers.
"Hindi po natin pupuwede pagurin ang ating mga medical frontliners dahil kapag sila ay narindi sino po ang mag-aalaga sa atin?" Roque said.
The IATF just last week placed the same areas under general community quarantine with additional specific restrictions until April 4, which include the ban on mass gatherings and indoor dining, among others.
The OCTA Research group, an independent research unit providing timely updates on the country's COVID-19 situation, earlier in the day projected that fresh cases could reach up to 13,000 per day by April.
As of Saturday, the Philippines has over 712,000 coronavirus infections. Active cases are also at an all-time high with over 118,000.
- With reports from Jeff Canoy and Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News
Metro Manila, COVID-19, COVID-19 cases, NCR plus, NCR Plus bubble, OCTA Research Group, IATF