Guidelines out as shift to Modified ECQ nears

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Guidelines out as shift to Modified ECQ nears
People stand on designated spots to maintain social distancing at a market during a government imposed enhanced quarantine as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 novel coronavirus in Manila on April 21, 2020.
AFP / Maria Tan

MANILA, Philippines — Some businesses, including non-leisure establishments in malls, will be allowed to reopen and transportation restrictions will be eased under a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).
"High-risk" areas Metro Manila, Laguna, and Cebu City will be placed under MECQ starting May 16 as authorities heed the World Health Organization's warning against rushing the lifting of lockdowns in areas with high number of coronavirus cases.

The MECQ will be more relaxed than the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) but has more restrictions compared to the general community quarantine (GCQ).

Some forms of private transportation will also be allowed under the MECQ as long as they comply with safety protocols.

Infographic from National Action Plan released by Office of the Presidential Spokesperson"We have to be flexible. We have to do it gradually, slowly. If the number of (coronavirus) cases increase, we would go back to ECQ," presidential spokesman Harry Roque said at a press briefing Wednesday.

"We started with ECQ, we will shift to modified ECQ before going to GCQ. After that, we will go to modified GCQ before moving to the new normal. We won't experience the normal we knew before COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) until there is no vaccine or medicine," he added.

Everyone should also stay at home under MECQ except frontliners and those who are buying essentials.

Limited outdoor exercise will be allowed such as outdoor walk, jogging, running, and biking but safety protocols should be observed like wearing of masks and two-meter distancing. Limited contact sports like golf and tennis are allowed in GCQ areas.

Small gatherings, including religious ones, are allowed in areas under MECQ if they only have five participants or less. In GCQ areas, the maximum number of participants is ten.

No inter-island travel and domestic flights will be permitted under MECQ but biking and non-motorized transport are encouraged. International flights are limited to those carrying overseas Filipino workers or returning Filipinos. In GCQ areas, public transport and inter-island travel to other places under GCQ are allowed as long as the observe health protocols and strict safe distancing.

School premises will remain closed in MECQ areas. For places that have shifted to GCQ, schools can employ a skeleton work force to process requirements from students and to prepare for graduation and for next semester.

A skeleton onsite staff will man government agencies while other personnel will work from home in MECQ areas. For GCQ areas, government offices will adopt alternative arrangements like 40-hour or four-day work week.

Infographic from National Action Plan released by Office of the Presidential Spokesperson

Public shuttles will be the only mode of public transportation under MECQ. Private transportation permitted under MECQ are company shuttles (50-percent capacity only), personal vehicles for workers in permitted sectors and activities (two persons per row), bicycle (one person only), motorcycle (one person only), and e-Scooter (one person only).

All modes of public transport will be permitted in GCQ areas but in a reduced capacity to observe safe physical distancing. All private transportation are also permitted in places that have shifted to GCQ.

Guidelines for construction work

The government has also issued guidelines for public and private construction works in MECQ areas.

Only workers aged 21 to 59 years old and without pre-existing health conditions are allowed to work. They will have to undergo medical tests funded by contractors before they are deployed to construction sites. Workers will be housed in barracks during the duration fo the project. There should also be segregated facilities to ensure social distancing. Workers should be transported using private shuttles while onsite employees should be given quarantine passes.

Supervisors should ensure safe distancing in and daily disinfection of construction sites. Errands outside the construction site should be minimized while all personnel returning from the outside should undergo quartantine. Deliveries and disposal of materials should be handled by separate teams. All employees should also wear personal protective equipment. A safety officer should be tapped to ensure compliance of health protocols.

Industries allowed to operate

All Category I sectors namely agriculture, forestry, and fisheries; manufacturing of essential  goods like food, hygiene, medicines, medical products and pet food; hospitals and clinics; essential retails like groceries and drug stores; laundry shops; food preparation, water-refilling, logistics service providers; and delivery services; utilities like power and water; repair and installation of machinery and equipment; telecommunications, energy companies, gasoline stations, construction workers accredited to work on health facilities; manufacturing firms and suppliers of construction products; and media establishments are allowed in all quarantine scenarios, including MECQ.

Category II sectors that are allowed under MECQ are cement and steel, mining and quarrying, electronic commerce companies, postal, courier and delivery services, export-oriented companies (point-to-point shuttles); repair of computers and personal and household goods; housing services activities; special purpose accommodation for health care workers, overseas Filipino workers, workers in permitted sectors and other people required to undergo quarantine; business process outsourcing (work-from-home, on-site, or near site accommodation or point-to-point shuttles); banks, money transfer services, microfinance institutions, pawnshops and credit cooperatives; and capital markets.

Category II sectors that are partially allowed or those that can deploy half of its personnel onsite are manufacturers of other goods (beverages including alcoholic drinks), electrical machinery, wood products, furniture, non-metallic products, textiles and wearing apparels, tobacco products, paper and paper products, rubber and plastic products, coke and refined petroleum products, other non-metallic products, computer, electronic and optical products, electrical equipment, machinery and equipment, motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers, and other transport equipment; real estate activities (leasing allowed); essential public and private construction projects except small-scale projects; office administrative and office support like photocopying and billing; accommodation for guests (only for existing long-term bookings or bookings as of May 1 in Luzon); veterinary clinics, security and investigation activities; other financial services like money exchange, insurance, reinsurance and non-compulsory pension funding; legal and accounting, management and consultancy activities; architecture and engineering activities; scientific and research development.

Category III sectors allowed under MECQ are rental and leasing other than real estate (e.g. vehicles, equipment for permitted sectors); employment activities. Those that will be allowed to operate partially are advertising and market research, computer programming, publishing and printing services including newspapers and books; film, music and television production; other activities like photography, fashion, industrial, graphic and interior design; wholesale and retail trade of motor vehicles; repair of motor vehicles, motorcycles and bicycles; malls and commercial centers (non-leisure only); dining and restaurants (no dine-in, delivery and takeaway only); hardware stores, clothing and accessories; mall-based government frontline services; bookstores and school and office supplies stores; baby care supplies stores; per food and pet care supplies; IT communications and electronic equipment; flower, jewelry, novelty, antique, and perfume shops; and toy store (Playground and amusement area will remain closed).

The only Category III sector not allowed under MECQ is barbershops and salons.

Sectors that fall under Category IV cannot operate in any quarantine scenario because they are considered non-essentials.

Businesses that belong to the category are gyms, fitness studios and sports facilities; entertainment industries like cinemas, theaters and karaoke bars; kid amusement industries, libraries, archives, museums, and cultural centers; tourist destinations like water parks, resorts and beaches; travel agencies, tour operators, reservation service and related activities, and personal care services like massage parlors, sauna, facial care and waxing.

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