Metro Manila, home to roughly 12 million people, must slow the spread of COVID-19 in two weeks to avoid being plunged back into a lockdown. Prevailed upon by top Cabinet officials and the capital’s mayors, President Rodrigo Duterte kept the region under general community quarantine or GCQ, his spokesman said on July 15.
The recommendation to the President was to roll Metro Manila back to a Modified ECQ or enhanced community quarantine. Interior Sec. Eduardo Año and the Chief Implementer of the country’s pandemic response, Sec. Carlito Galvez appealed. Metro Manila’s mayors also promised to tighten localized lockdowns, strengthen tracing, testing and treatment and enforce GCQ restrictions on a wider scale, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.
Duterte changed his mind and the decision was announced roughly before midnight of July 16, when the current GCQ will expire. From mid-March to the end of May, Metro Manila was under ECQ and the slightly looser MECQ. Eleven weeks of lockdown shuttered businesses, paralyzed public transport and required people to stay at home and go out of the house only for essentials, quarantine passes in tow.
“Malinaw sa diskusyon na kapaghindi po napabagal ang pagkalat ng COVID-19 sa Metro Manila, posibleng bumalik sa MECQ pagkatapos nitong dalawang linggo (It’s clear in the discussion that unless the spread of COVID-19 is slowed, it’s possible for Metro Manila to return to MECQ),” Roque said.
“Hinihimok natin ang ating mga kababayan sa Metro Manila, kinakailangan po, ingat buhay para sa ating hanapbuhay (We urge Metro Manila residents, take care of yourselves for the sake of your jobs.),” he said.
The discussions to persuade Duterte to keep the capital region under GCQ were lengthy, Roque said. During which, the public was given a reprieve. “Binigyan ng pagkakataon ang mga taga-Metro Manila napatunayanna kaya nilang ingatan ang buhay para sa kanilang hanapbuhay (Metro Manila residents are given a chance to prove that they can take care of themselves for the sake of their jobs.)
Only one area, Cebu City, remains under MECQ, wherein stay-at-home orders remain, public gatherings are limited to five people and only those running errands or working in permitted industries can go out of their houses, Roque said. The rest of the country is under Modified GCQ, the lowest in a four-step quarantine classification system before the full lifting of quarantines.
As of 4 p.m. on July 15, the Department of Health tallied 58,850 COVID-19 cases including 1,614 deaths and 20,976 recoveries. The cases started to spike after the MECQ was downgraded to GCQ on June 1. That first significant easing of one of the world’s longest lockdown allowed shopping malls, trains, taxis, ride-sharing and office work to resume, albeit at limited capacities.