MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - Coronavirus-related restrictions in Metro Manila and neighboring urban hubs will be eased starting August 19 as the government rushes to resuscitate the economy dragged down by the pandemic.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night announced that he is downgrading the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) in the National Capital Region and the nearby provinces of Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite, and Rizal to general community quarantine (GCQ) until Aug. 31
Nueva Ecija, Batangas, Quezon, Iloilo City, Cebu City, Lapu-Lapu City, Mandaue City, Talisay City, Minglanilla, Cebu and Consolacion, Cebu are also under GCQ until August 31, as was announced last Saturday.
The rest of the Philippines, meanwhile, will stay under modified general community quarantine.
The easing of restrictions in the country's urban hubs comes after the economy plunged into recession following a 16.5 percent GDP drop in the second quarter.
The Q2 contraction--which wiped out the gains from the administration of the late President Cory Aquino up to her son, former President Noynoy Aquino--was "much worse" than government economists expected. The last economic recession was experienced nearly 30 years ago.
On Aug. 4, Duterte reverted Metro Manila and the four provinces under MECQ following the appeal of health workers for a "time out" as COVID-19 cases in the country continued to surge.
Metro Manila and other key areas in the Philippines were placed on quarantine since mid-March to curb the spread of COVID-19. The country recorded its first case of the disease on Jan. 30 in a Chinese woman who arrived from the Chinese city of Wuhan where the new coronavirus is believed to have been first detected.
Last Saturday, most parts of the Philippines remained under relaxed community quarantine levels until the end of the month even as the number of COVID-19 infections in the country continues to increase.
Coronavirus infections in the Philippines reached 164,474 on Monday, of which 49,034 are active cases.