The Philippines will be in a "better position" to further relax existing quarantines in March, as long as the public keeps observing minimum health standards against COVID-19. Socioeconmic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua said Monday.
The country entered the 12th month of quarantine in February, with the entire Philippines under the lowest, MGCQ, save for areas under GCQ or one notch higher including Metro Manila, Batangas, Tacloban City, Davao City, Davao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, and Iligan City.
Chua said COVID-19 cases did not spike despite the easing of transport restrictions in October and even after the Christmas holidays, proof that the country has learned how to live with the virus. Quarantines have plunged the economy into its worst recession since World War II, with consumer spending badly hit.
"I think after this month, we should be in a better position to relax further. 'Yung talagang hindi puwede is mag-u-turn tayo, 'yung bumalik tayo sa ECQ or MECQ," Chua said, referring to the two highest qualifications under the country's four-tier system.
"Most of the time, people's behavior will determine that if they follow the health standards of maintaining a distance and wearing masks, washing of hands," he said.
The economy will reopen "as safely as possible" as the government moves to vaccinate millions. He didn't say whether the relaxation in March would entail a downgrade to MGCQ for GCQ areas of the unwinding of some GCQ rules.
Once the first COVID-19 vaccine dose is delivered, Chua said this would encourage people to resume as much of their pre-pandemic lives as possible.
"People will not be as afraid to go out, ang confidence tataas... That's when you see the economy coming back," he said.