MANILA – Quarantine life is here to stay, for two more weeks at least, after President Rodrigo Duterte extended four-month-old coronavirus restrictions until July 31 following a rise in infections, with a warning of a return to a stricter lockdown if local officials fail to slow the spread of the virus, his spokesman said on July 15.
Metro Manila will remain under general community quarantine or GCQ, the second lowest in a four-step quarantine system that allows limited office work, business operations and public transportation. Cebu City will be under modified enhanced community quarantine where stay-at-home orders are strictly implemented.
This means that for at least a third of the entire 2020, millions of Filipinos were cooped up in their homes except for work and errands, wore face masks, avoided handshakes and kept a bottle of disinfectant spray handy. A vaccine is seen as the most potent way to end the pandemic, but it will not be available until next year, based on the current testing timeline, according to the head of the Philippines’ COVID-19 vaccine search body.
Duterte rejected a recommendation from a team from the University of the Philippines to roll the capital region back to a Modified ECQ. Instead, after lengthy discussions, he secured the commitment of mayors to ramp up testing and contact-tracing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said. "Ingat buhay bago hanap buhay," Roque said.
Metro Manila began a gradual rollback of restrictions on June 1, and a rise in cases followed. As of Tuesday, total infections were at 57,545 with 1,603 deaths and 20,459 recoveries. This week, two of the metro’s biggest hospitals, Makati Medical Center and St. Luke’s Medical Center, said COVID-19 beds were full.
The following areas will also be placed under GCQ until July 31:
- Lapu Lapu City
- Mandaue City
- Ormoc City
- Southern Leyte
- Zamboanga City
- Butuan City
- Agusan del Norte
The rest of the country will remain under modified general community quarantine until July 31.