(Editor's note: This story was published on Aug. 1, 2020. On Aug. 2, 2020, the government announced that the General Community Quarantine would be rolled back to a Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine. We are issuing this clarification to avoid confusion.)
Another 15 days of coronavirus quarantine starts Saturday and by the time it ends on Aug. 15, restrictions would have been in place for five months. This period will be different because as infections continue to rise, more businesses are allowed to reopen as President Rodrigo Duterte's government tries to save both lives and the economy.
Duterte addressed the nation twice this week: his State of the Nation Address last Monday and a televised briefing early Friday to announce the new quarantines. Vice President Leni Robredo also spoke to the nation to offer her suggestions.
Here's what you need to know about the next 15 days.
What types of quarantines are in place?
Metro Manila remains under general community quarantine or GCQ. Cebu City was placed under GCQ for the first time since March. Also under GCQ: Bulacan, Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, Lapu-Lapu City, Mandaue City, Minglanilla, Consolacion and Zamboanga City. The rest of the country is under Modified GCQ or MGCQ, one notch lower than GCQ.
Duterte likened the quarantines to staying in purgatory and asked the public to continue observing health measures.
What will change?
Lockdowns will be localized or barangay-based instead of locking down entire provinces or regions as what happened during the ECQ or ehhanced community quarantine and Modified ECQ or MECQ.
There will be a "massive targeted testing, intesified quarantine and tracing of close contacts," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said. In case confirmed cases don't have a bathroom of their own, they will be brought to government isolation centers, he said.
Beds for COVID-19 cases will also be increased, to 50 percent of capacity for government hospitals and 30 perent for private hospitals. The allocation waspreviously at 30 percent and 20 percent, respectively.
Will face shields be required?
Face shields are "encouraged" said Trade Sec. Ramon Lopez. Roque, who is also spokesman of the Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19 first raised the face shields during Duterte's televised address. He said this was a recommendation.
"Hindi pa yan nirerequire ngayon but in the future baka i-require na natin kung kailanganin pa natin mag extra protection (We're not requiring it now but in the future we might, it if we need extra protection)," Lopez said.
Required still are face masks, frequent hand-washing and physical distancing.
Can I go to the gym?
Yes, in both GCQ and MGCQ areas. However, gloves will be needed if using shared equipment at the gym, Lopez said. Gym operators must ensure good air circulation; and open air operations are better, he said. The trade chief did not immediately specify the type of gloves required specifically for the GCQ.
Ahead of Friday's address by the President, 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.
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.
Is a vaccine coming?
Yes, within the year, according to the President and the options include those made in China, the US and the UK. During his SONA, Duterte said he asked Chinese Pres. Xi Jinping for first access to a China-made vaccine.
The Philippines, through the Land Bank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the Philippines, would buy enough vaccines for an initial 20 million people. At two doses each and at $10 per dose, the vaccination program could cost $400 million or P20 billion, Finance Sec. Carlos Dominguez said.
Are classes reopening?
Yes, on Aug. 24 using a "blended" scheme that employs radio, television, the internet and modules, Education Sec. Leonor Briones said. Face-to-face learning will have to wait until 2021, she said, with a COVID-19 vaccine expected later this year at the earliest.
What are the numbers like?
Confirmed cases hit record highs for a single day on Thursday and Friday, at roughly 4,000 each, bringing the total to 93,354. Recoveries are also being added in record numbers, now at 65,178. Total deaths are at 2,023.
The reasons for the surge? Late and fresh validation for COVID-19 cases. For recoveries, Data was reconciled to reflect a new system wherein patients with mild or no symptoms 14 days from the onset of signs or date of specimen collection were tagged as recovered, the DOH said. On the tenth day of illness, the risk of transmission is "significantly reduced," the department said citing protocols in the US, Europe and India.