Iloilo City was placed under the second highest quarantine, MECQ, starting Friday, authorities said, as they gauged whether or not restrictions in Metro Manila could be downgraded to the lowest level, MGCQ.
The capital region of some 10 million people is under GCQ, the second to the lowest quarantine until Sept. 30. A shift to MGCQ would allow more businesses to operate. Most of the country is under MGCQ.
Why does MGCQ matter?
Modified General Community Quarantine is the lowest under a four-step scale. The highest being ECQ (Enhanced Community Quarantine), Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) and General Community Quarantine (GCQ).
Restrictions get adjusted in real time, depending on the status of cases. The following businesses are allowed only under MGCQ and at 50% capacity: full body massage, tattoo and body piercing and live events and conventions.
The following businesses, allowed to operate up to 30% in GCQ areas, can increase capacity to 50%: gyms, review centers, internet cafes, drive in cinemas and pet grooming.
Malls can operate at 100% capacity, subject to trade department rules, along with car repair, car sales, job recruitment, fashion and interior design. Restaurant dine-in, barbershops and salons can increase capacity to 75% from 50%.
In tourism, some local governments impose fewer requirements on visitors from areas with MGCQ, compared to GCQ. It can also pave the way for the resumption of inter-province land travel.
What does it take to graduate to MGCQ?
For one, there should be more available resources compared to the number of critical COVID-19 patients. This is called criticial care capacity.
Critical care capacity should be at 60% at most to qualify as "medium risk." It is currently at 65%, said Health Usec. Bong Vega, the country's treatment czar. "If you are to move towards MGCQ, dapat mas below ka ‘no (it needs to be lower)," he said.
Also being monitored is the case doubling time or the amount of time it takes for infections to double. This is an indicator of how fast the disease is spreading.
Earlier this week, Trade Sec. Ramon Lopez said he was in favor of placing Metro Manila under MGCQ since the public by now is aware of safety protocols having endured six months of quarantine and counting.
Aside from wearing face masks and face shields outdoors, the government also maintained the one-meter minimum physical distancing in public transport. Contact-tracing was also intensified in recent weeks with apps and QR code tech to make logging contact details as easy as cashless shopping.
"Kapag ito ay sinusunod ng sambayanan, bumababa ang transmission (Transmission goes down if the public complies)," Lopez told TeleRadyo.
What's next after MGCQ?
The new normal comes after MGCQ with only minimum health standards in place. Areas that report zero community transmission can graduate to the new normal, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque had said.
There could be new normal classifications as early as October, Roque said. "There will be areas na mayroong zero transmission in the past month na puwede nang ideklara as under the regime of new normal (There are areas that have zero transmission in the past month that can be declared as under the regime of new normal)," he said.