MANILA (2nd UPDATE) — Metro Manila will have only 2 quarantine levels in a policy shift that government hopes will arrest the spread of COVID-19 while at the same time spurring business activity, Malacañang said on Friday.
The inter-agency task force on COVID-19 has approved "provisionally" the guidelines on the pilot implementation of the "alert level system" in the capital region from Sept. 16 to 30, said Palace spokesman Harry Roque.
"Sang-ayon po dito sa policy shift na gagawin natin, 2 na lang po ang ating quarantine classification. Ito po ang ECQ na ipapataw po ng IATF o kaya di naman kaya ang GCQ," he said in a press briefing.
(In line with the policy shift we will do, we will only have 2 quarantine classifications. These are ECQ that the IATF will impose or GCQ.)
ECQ or enhanced community quarantine is the strictest of 4 lockdown levels in the previous set-up, while GCQ or general community quarantine is the second loosest.
ECQ, or "alert level 5" will be declared only as a "last resort," said Interior Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III.
GCQ WITH ALERT LEVELS
Video courtesy of PTV
Meanwhile, GCQ restrictions in the new scheme will depend on the alert level over a city or municipality, Roque said.
He said the highest alert level is 4, under which mass gatherings, indoor dining, and personal care services will be banned, he said.
"Pero pinaplantsa pa po talaga 'yong detalye kung anong puwede sa alert level 4," Roque said.
(But the details on what are allowed in alert level 4 are still being ironed out.)
Densing said that under alert level 4, minors and elderly people aged 65 and up are not allowed to go out, as well as those who have comorbidities and pregnant moms.
He noted government offices will be operated under 20 percent capacity under the alert level.
"Three C" activities or those that are crowded, meanwhile, involve close contact, and held in closed or indoor areas will be allowed at 30 percent of venue capacity under alert level 3, 50 percent at level 2, and fully at level 1, Densing said.
"Three C" activities include parties, religious gatherings, meetings, exhibits, indoor tourist attractions, personal care services, and indoor dining, he said.
Video courtesy of PTV
Roque added granular lockdowns would be stricter than previous versions. Only health and allied medical professionals, and outbound or returning OFWs will be allowed to leave their homes, and those with emergencies, he said.
"Pati po mga taong gobyerno o 'yong mga nagtatrabaho 'pag kayo po ay nasa ilalim ng localized lockdown, hindi kayo pupuwede lumabas," Roque said.
(Even government workers and those working under localized lockdown, you will not be allowed to go out.)
The social welfare department and local governments will distribute food aid in areas under granular lockdowns, he said.
Granular lockdowns will run for 14 days, during which local authorities would go house-to-house to look for COVID-19 patients, Densing said.
A granular lockdown may be limited to several houses, a building, street or a barangay, he said.
Authorities are still studying a proposal for a vaccine bubble in Metro Manila, and limited al fresco dining under alert level 4, said Densing.
He said Metro Manila mayors also want to look into the criteria for declaring alert levels, which include health care utilization. Many hospitals in the capital region are treating patients from other areas, he said.
Government had earlier taken back its declaration of Metro Manila's return to GCQ on Sept. 8, instead extending enforcement of the stricter modified ECQ until Sept. 15.
The health department on Thursday reported 22,820 coronavirus cases, a new daily record. It said total confirmed cases rose to 2.16 million, while deaths reached 34,733.