Metro Manila Ready to Return to GCQ, Says Pandemic Task Force Chief

Localized lockdowns for streets and villages are favored.
Photo/s: Jerome Ascaño

Metro Manila is “ready” to return to a looser quarantine or GCQ that allows more economic activity after the reimposition of strict rules last week caused coronavirus infections to go down, the head of the National Task Force on COVID-19 said Monday.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana made the assessment seven days into the 15-day Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine in Metro Manila, Laguna, Cavite, Rizal and Bulacan that will last until Aug. 18. Lorenzana said some 3,000 cases were reported Sunday, half the number reported in the past few days.

When asked if Metro Manila could be downgrade to General Community Quarantine or GCQ from MECQ, Lorenzana told ANC: “I think we are ready to go down.” Lorenzana heads the NTF, which implements the policies crafted by the IATF or Inter-Agency task Force.

We cannot continue with the MECQ kasi nga alam na natin kung nasaan iyong areas na may infection. Iyon and tutukan natin so the others can go to work. (We cannot continue with the MECQ because we already know the areas with infection. We will focus on those so the others can go to work),” he said.


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The capital region and its suburbs were placed under MECQ until Aug. 18 to slow down the spread of the virus, and to give health frontliners a timeout. Under MECQ, many businesses and mass transport systems are suspended, and everyone is required to stay at home. Quarantine passes and checkpoints were reinstated, and only essential goods and services may be purchased.

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Instead of placing entire cities or regions under strict quarantines, local authorities will help determine which villages or streets have high cases of COVID-19 so those smaller areas can be placed under lockdown, Lorenzana said.

Hindi pwedeng lockdown na lang tayo nang lockdown dahil baka mas maraming mamatay sa gutom kaysa sa COVID kung walang trabaho ang mga tao (We can’t keep going on lockdown because more people may die from hunger than COVID if they do not have jobs.),” he said.

The Philippine economy is officially in a recession because of the lockdowns spawned by the pandemic. The economy shrank by 16.5 percent in the April to June quarter—the biggest dip since the 1980s.

Officials earlier said that the economy could no longer sustain more prolonged lockdowns, stressing the government was trying to balance the nation’s health and economy during the pandemic.

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