President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday downgraded the strict quarantine in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite and Rizal one notch to a GCQ, allowing more businesses to operate and public transport to resume from Aug. 19, Wednesday, until the end of the month.
The GCQ will allow restaurants to accept dine-in customers and religious services up to 30 percent of the venue's capacity. A "refresh" of the response strategy will see house-to-house contact-tracing and pooled testing among others, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.
"Just be careful, Follow the safeguards," the President said.
However, the strictest lockdown can be imposed in barangays and streets to contain local oubtreaks, officials said. The MECQ was reimposed on Aug. 4 to give frontliners a break, cap the rise in infections and reboot the government's COVID-19 strategy.
Over the weekend, Duterte kept most of the country under the two lowest forms of restrictions until Aug. 31: GCQ or General Community Quarantine will be in force in Nueva Ecija, Batangas, Quezon province, Iloilo City, Cebu City, Mandaue City, Lapu-Lapu City Talisay City, and the municipalities of Minglanilla and Consolacion. The rest of the country will be under the lowest classification, Modified General Community Quarantine.
Public transportation is allowed in GCQ, including trains, buses, taxis, jeeps and ride-share cars. Leisure shops are allowed to open in shopping malls and restaurants can accept dine-in customers.
In MGCQ areas, the following can resume, also at 30 percent capacity: tattoo and body piercing, live events, entertainment industries, libraries, archives, museums and cultural centers, tourist destinations, and schools for language, driving, dance, acting and voice.
Before the end of July, the trade department said the following businesses can restart at 30 percent capacity in GCQ areas: gyms, fitness centers, internet shops, tutorial and review centers, and grooming services.
Among new measures the Philippines will increase traced contacts of COVID-19 patients to around 37, shift to the more conclusive RT-PCR tests instead of rapid tests, increase the hospital bed allocation for COVID-19 patients , build more isolation facilities, and commence human trials on the Japanese-made anti-flu drug, Avigan. A command center for Metro Manila hospitals was also opened.