Those who have plans to go out of Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal and spend the Holy Week elsewhere cannot do so under the new rules and regulations to be enforced starting Monday, March 22.
AdChoiceTV News — President Duterte has placed more areas under stricter quarantine status and has approved restrictions on non-essential movement and industries to stem the surge in COVID-19 infections in the Philippines.
The provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal will join COVID-19 epicenter Metro Manila in the general community quarantine (GCQ) classification from March 22 to April 4, according to Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) Resolution No. 104 approved on Saturday, March 20.
The four provinces used to be under the most lenient modified GCQ or MGCQ, where almost all industries can operate and up to half of the venues of public gatherings can be filled up. Only about half of the industries can operate and mass gatherings are restricted under GCQ.
While the IATF approved tighter measures during its emergency meeting over the weekend, Malacañang clarified that the government is not imposing a lockdown because the economy would remain open.
“We have new recommendations approved by the President and we hope the new restrictions will result in lower COVID-19 numbers,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a press briefing on Sunday, March 21.
“We won’t have a lockdown. The claim that we will have a circuit breaker is fake news,” he added.
Earlier, the government placed Metro Manila, Apayao, Baguio City, Kaling, Mt. Province, Batangas, Tacloban City, Iligan City, Davao City and Lanao del Sur under GCQ for the whole month of March.
Here are the other stricter measures to be imposed in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal as they are placed under GCQ:
• Common curfew hours
Metro Manila and the four provinces will implement a common 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew during the two-week period but night shift workers, cargo vehicles, and public transportation will not be covered by the restriction.
The unified curfew was implemented in Metro Manila starting March 15 and was supposed to last until March 31.
• Ban on mass and religious gatherings
Under the IATF resolution, which was released a week before the observance of Holy Week, all mass or public gatherings, including religious events, will be prohibited. Weddings, baptisms, and funeral services will be allowed but only up to 10 persons can attend
“We hope you will understand. While we already have plans to travel, we do not have an alternative if we really want to limit the spread (of the virus) especially the new variants,” Roque said.
“This will just be for two weeks, and hopefully, with God’s mercy, after two weeks, we will be able to see a lower number of people catching COVID-19,” he added.
• Non-essential trips prohibited
Roque said only essential travel, including returning to one’s province or city, would be allowed.
Those who have plans to go out of Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal and spend the Holy Week elsewhere cannot do so under the new rules and regulations.
Roque explained tourism is considered to be non-essential travel and that he was sorry that those who already booked their trips would not be allowed to proceed.
For essential travel, “our bubble will be in Metro Manila, Laguna, Bulacan, Cavite, and Rizal,” Roque said. “So you can travel anywhere between Metro Manila and these provinces.”
“We will enforce that through checkpoints,” he added.
• Authorized persons outside their residences
Persons who are allowed to go outside their residences are essential workers, health and emergency frontline services personnel, government officials and government frontline personnel, duly-authorized humanitarian assistance actors, persons traveling for medical or humanitarian reasons, persons going to the airport for travel abroad, anyone crossing zones for work or business and going back home, returning overseas Filipinos, and overseas Filipino workers. Workers have to show their work IDs to prove that they belong to essential sectors.
Persons below 18 years old and above 65 years old, those with immunodeficiency, comorbidity, or other health risks, and pregnant women are required to remain in their homes at all times except when obtaining essential goods and services or when reporting for work.
Persons above 65 years old may be allowed to engage in outdoor non-contact sports and other forms of outdoor exercises. Persons with disabilities (PWDs) may be allowed outdoors for their therapy and for outdoor exercises upon presentation of prescription from their physicians or their PWD ID’s.
• Transportation services
Roque said the allowed capacity of public transportation would be retained but health and safety protocols should be strictly followed. Passengers and transport workers should observe appropriate physical distancing, wear face masks and face shields, and refrain from talking, making phone calls, or eating during the trip, Public utility vehicles should be well ventilated and should be disinfected frequently. Passengers with COVID-19 symptoms should not be allowed to board public transportation. Biking and walking are also encouraged.
• Home and workplace measures
Roque said accepting visitors outside immediate family or household is strongly discouraged to prevent the spread of the virus. Wearing of face masks at home is strongly advised especially when living with the elderly and vulnerable.
The government also maintained the operational capacities of both essential and non-essential services but safety protocols should be observed including the prohibition against group meals in work places. Work from home and virtual meetings are highly encouraged while face-to-face meetings are highly discouraged. Members of the private sector were enjoined to adopt alternative working arrangements like those already in place in the government like limiting the on-site capacity to 30 to 50 percent when applicable.
• No indoor dining
The resolution also prohibited indoor dining and encouraged take-out and delivery services. Outdoor or al fresco dining will be allowed but only 50 percent of the venue capacity can be filled up. Additional engineering and administrative controls should also be in place like placing of acrylic or similar dividers, limiting to two the number of persons who can use a table and implementing a one-seat apart in a diagonal configuration arrangement.
• Closure of establishments
The government earlier suspended the operations of driving schools, traditional cinemas and video interactive game arcades, libraries, archives, museums, and cultural centers, limited social events at accredited establishments of the tourism department, and limited tourist attractions except open-air ones. Cockfighting and cockpit operations, in both GCQ and MGCQ areas are also suspended.
The IATF ordered the interior department to ensure that all local governments enforce safety measures like the completion of isolation and quarantine procedures before an infected person is reintegrated with the community; distribution of masks and face shields especially to vulnerable sectors, and implementation of alternative working arrangements.
Local governments are also required to actively find cases in the barangays, increase and improve facility-based quarantine and isolation, ensure appropriate patient care navigation through the use of programs like One Hospital Command and Oplan Kalinga, and increase the beds dedicated to COVID-19 patients to 30 percent for private institutions and 50 percent for public hospitals to increase the health system capacity.
“We hope everybody will understand (the imposition of stricter measures). This is for the common good,” Roque said.
Reporting by Albert Rovic Tan