IATF mulls GCQ extension in Metro Manila until yearend

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
IATF mulls GCQ extension in Metro Manila until yearend
Catholic faithful wearing face shields have their body temperature checked prior to attending a mass at the usually packed Baclaran church in Paranaque City, suburban Manila on October 9, 2020. After months of livestreaming mass to millions of faithful from behind closed doors, churches in the Catholic-majority Philippines are beginning to reopen.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — While the government is gradually reopening the pandemic-hit economy, there is an emerging consensus among officials to extend the general community quarantine (GCQ) in Metro Manila until December, Malacañang said Monday.

Under GCQ, most industries can operate partially but restrictions against gatherings remain in place. Metro Manila, the Philippines, economic center, has been under GCQ since the second week of August. The capital region, which accounts for more than a third of the Philippine economy, will be under the quarantine classification until the end of the month. 
Metro Manila mayors have recommended the placing of the capital region under GCQ until the end of the year, noting that protocols on economic activity can be relaxed without downgrading the quarantine classification. 

"Well, iyan po ang parang nabubuong consensus pero siyempre po hindi ko pupuwedeng pangunahan ‘no (That's the emerging consensus but I do not want to preempt it because it is a collegial decision)," presidential spokesman Harry Roque said when asked about the proposal to keep Metro Manila under GCQ until the end of 2020. 

"But what we are seeing right now is while Metro Manila is under GCQ, we have a wider reopening of industries and that is what we need because it's part of our message to protect our lives so we can continue with our livelihood," he added. 

Roque said the GCQ being implemented in Metro Manila is more lenient because of the move to increase the allowed capacities of businesses. The Palace spokesman, nevertheless, reiterated that it is possible for the capital region to be downgraded to modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), the most lenient classification, wherein more businesses can operate at a much larger capacity. 

"Let's see if it is possible, if the (COVID-19) numbers go down. We make decisions monthly and October has not yet ended. While we already have initial data, our experts are still studying them to determine the classifications for the month of November," Roque, also the spokesman of the government's pandemic task force, said. 

"So let us just continue wearing face masks, washing our hands, and observing physical distancing and I think anything is possible. But what is non-negotiable is we need to work regardless of the (quarantine) classification," he added. 

Roque admitted that one of the reasons why the government's pandemic task force is hesitant to talk about a downgrade to MGCQ is the possibility that people might be complacent with regard to health protocols. 

"That's (possible complacence) part of it but I think the numbers are improving because our countrymen are following health protocols," the Palace spokesman said. 

President Duterte is expected to announce the updated quarantine classifications before the end of the month.

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