The mayors of the 17 cities and municipality in Metro Manila recommended staying with a general community quarantine (GCQ) status for the rest of the year, an official of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) said Monday.
In a virtual presser, MMDA General Manager Jose Arturo Garcia said the Metro Manila Council (MMC) — composed of Metro Manila mayors and national government officials — have agreed to a continued GCQ instead of recommending a downgrade to the less stringent modified community quarantine (MGCQ), in a meeting over the weekend.
“Mag-stick talaga tayo na hanggang Dec. 31, GCQ ang buong National Capital Region (NCR) pa rin (We’ll stick to a GCQ until Dec. 31 for the whole NCR),” Garcia said.
He said the recommendation, still subject to the approval of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), was thought to be the better option as it would allow the gradual reopening of the economy.
“Mahirap na i-MGCQ mo ng 100 percent saka mo babawasan. Magkakaroon ng resistance ‘yan at mahirap i-control. Unlike naka-GCQ tayo then gradually tayo nagi-increase ng capacity (It’s going to be hard to move to an MGCQ then we add some restrictions. There will be resistance and it will be hard to control. Unlike a GCQ where we can gradually relax restrictions),” Garcia said.
For areas with a high number of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) infections, he said the local government units (LGU) will still have the authority to impose localized lockdowns.
“Binibigyan pa rin ng authority ang ating mga mayors na pag sa tingin nila medyo dumadami ang cases, pwede nilang i-lockdown. Sinusuportahan ng IATF-EID ‘yan (Authority is still given to mayors — when they see that they have increasing cases of Covid-19, they can impose a localized lockdown. That’s supported by the IATF-EID),” Garcia said.
He said the number of active Covid-19 cases in the NCR has gone down, even though the national government has allowed the relaxation of several quarantine restrictions such as the reopening and expanded capacity of business establishments.
“Nasa 6,000 na lang po mahigit ang active cases. Iyan po ay nagsimula ng 20,000. So, just imagine, more than 70 percent na ang nabawas sa active cases (Around 6,000 is what we have now for Covid-19 active cases. That’s from 20,000. Just imagine, it has gone down by more than 70 percent),” Garcia said.
He noted the improvement came about as more people become more responsible, adhere to health protocols, and learn more about the pandemic.
“Ang nakikita namin dito kaya bumababa ang numero natin kahit paunti-unti ang pagbubukas ng ating ekonomiya ay dahil natututo na ang mga tao, nagiging responsable na ang ating mga kababayan sa health protocols (What we’re seeing is the numbers are going down even as we slowly reopen the economy because people are learning, our fellow Filipinos are becoming more responsible with regards to health protocols),” Garcia said.
Meanwhile, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año agreed with the mayors’ decision, stressing that further relaxing quarantine restrictions in the metropolis may lead to a spike in Covid-19 cases.
He said the slow easing of restrictions would help revive the economy without putting public health at risk.
“Mas maganda na i-maintain mo yung GCQ (It is better to maintain GCQ). Pag hindi naman natin binantayan pwedeng mag-spike uli, alam mo naman magki-Christmas season (If we do not keep a tight watch, there could be a spike again. As you know, the Christmas season is approaching],” Año said in a television interview.
While mall sale events were allowed, Año clarified that Christmas parties would be prohibited to prevent further transmission of Covid-19.
Shorter curfew, higher church capacity
During the meeting, Garcia said the MMC has also agreed to recommend adjusting the curfew hours in Metro Manila from the current 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. to midnight to 4 a.m., allowing persons 18 to 65 years old to go outside of their homes.
“Itong 12 a.m. to 4 a.m., ito ang nakikita ng economic team sa IATF-EID na makakatulong sa pagtakbo ng ating ekonomiya. ‘Yung from 10 p.m. ginawang 12 a.m. para a least yung mga establishments, like restaurants, madagdagan yung kakain sa kanila (This 12 a.m. to 4 a.m. curfew, it was recommended by the economic team of the IATF-EID to help our economy. The curfew will soon begin at 12 a.m. to help establishments, like restaurants, have more customers),” Garcia said.
He noted that the city of Navotas, however, will stick with its current curfew hours from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.
“Maiintindihan naman natin ang Navotas, nasa dulo sila saka more on residential, kaya pinayagan na maiba ang Navotas sa other 16 (We understand Navotas’ situation. They’re at the edge and they mostly residential. That’s why the city has a different curfew from the other 16 cities and municipality),” Garcia said.
The new curfew hours, he said, would be effective as soon as their respective local government drafts a new ordinance, assuring that it would start within the week.
“Hindi pa ito effective immediately. May mga city na pwedeng mauna, ia-adjust pa po nila yung kanilang mga ordinansa or executive order. Pero they assure that within this week, magiging standard na 12 to 4 ‘yung ating mga city except Navotas (This is not effective immediately. There are cities that will probably impose the new curfew earlier, they are still drafting their ordinance or executive order. But they assured that within the week, the new curfew will begin except in Navotas),” Garcia said.
He said the curfew could shorten further in the future to allow Filipinos to attend “Simbang Gabi” or dawn Masses, noting that new guidelines would be released by end of November.
“Yung mga suggestions ay paikliin pa ang curfew ng 12 a.m. to 3 a.m. by December 1 para magbigay daan para sa Simbang Gabi (There are suggestions to further shorten the curfew to 12 a.m. to 3 a.m. by December 1 to give way for night masses),” Garcia said.
Another recommendation for approval of the IATF-EID, he said, was to increase the capacity of churches and other places of worship to 30 percent.
“Ang reason naman po dito, nakikita ng mga mayors natin na morally, psychologically, yung mga kababayan po natin, talagang kailangan na ng guidance sa pagsisimba o kaya face-to-face (The reason for this is our mayors see that their constituents are in need of moral and psychological guidance through face-to-face worship),” Garcia said.
He noted that some churches that limited their interior capacity at 10 percent have people standing shoulder-to-shoulder outside in violation of social distancing guidelines.
“There are some churches na talagang 10 percent sila pero makikita natin sa labas naka-kumpol ang tao — malaki ang space nila kaya ima-maximize na lang natin na 30 percent (There are some churches that limited their interior capacity at 10 percent but we see people bunched together outside — they have big interior spaces so let’s instead maximize that to 30 percent),” Garcia said.
Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the IATF may take up this week requests for the government to authorize shortened curfew for the conduct of “Simbang Gabi”.
“In all likelihood, the lifting or shortening of curfews will be left to the discretion of the respective LGUs, except Metro Manila where LGU officials normally act in unison,” Guevarra said in a message to reporters.
DOJ main office open
Guevarra also said the Department of Justice (DOJ)’s main office will remain open even after four personnel have tested positive for Covid-19.
“These employees who tested positive have been sent to quarantine facilities. The affected premises were disinfected over the weekend.
Guevarra said “there is no need to impose lockdown at this time unless more employees turn out positive for Covid 19” in tests currently ongoing.
The latest personnel who tested positive are three security officers and one administrative aide, Guevarra said.
This brings the number of Covid-19 cases at the agency’s main office in Manila to 15, with 11 recoveries. (PNA)