President Rodrigo Duterte is due to decide this week on whether the entire Philippines should be placed under the lowest quarantine, MGCQ as the country neared the one year-mark since coronavirus restrictions were put in place.
Duterte's decision could come as early as Monday, during his weekly address to the nation on COVID-19, Malacanang said last week. The shift to MGCQ means businesses can operate at 75 to 100% capacity. Public transport and public gatherings can also operate at up to 75% capacity.
Duterte's economic managers are leading the call to ease restrictions to encourage more people to spend and preserve jobs while observing health protocols such as wearing of face masks and face shields and social distancing.
The President will decide on the nationwide MGCQ with this context:
Vaccine deliveries are delayed
The country's immunization czar, Sec. Carlito Galvez, on Friday apologized for the delay in vaccine deliveries citing tight global supply. The first delivery, scheduled on Feb. 15, failed to materialize and vaccines from China's Sinovac could arrive this week at the earliest.
The country's best bet is Covax, a vaccine equity alliance that includes the World Health Organization. Two jabs certified for emergency use by Filipino regulators -- Prizer and AstraZeneca -- are part of Covax.
Also last week, Duterte certified as urgent a bill that seeks to set up a compensation fund for vaccine recipients, which will help speed up the vaccine rollout.
New virus variants are emerging
As expected from viruses over time, variants have been detected, including one in Cebu province, authorities said. A variant from the UK restricted international travel in early February. COVID variants have also been detected in Brazil and South Africa.
On Saturday, the Department of Health recorded the second highest single-day death toll due to COVID -- 239. The DOH said total confirmed cases have increased to 559,288 while confirmed COVID-19 deaths have reached 12,068.
The recession is the worst since World War II
The economy, as measured by gross domestic product, shrank by 8.3% in the quarter ended December (compared to the same period in 2019), bringing the full-year contraction in GDP to 9.5%.
By how much did COVID-19 quarantines damage the Philippine economy? Consumers held back from spending the equivalent of 1.6 billion unlimited samgyupsal meals for one.