Metro Manila stays under GCQ in February

Metro Manila stays under GCQ in February
Armed with alcohol sprayers and thermometers, guards scan passengers entering the LRT Line-2 Santolan station in Pasig City as they resume operation on January 22, 2021.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 12:45 p.m.) — Metro Manila will spend yet another month under general community quarantine, Malacañang announced Friday.

Meanwhile, the provinces of Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga and Mountain Province, and the city of Baguio, in the Cordillera Administrative Region and which are all currently under modified GCQ, will revert to GCQ from February 1 to February 28. 

Batangas, Tacloban City, Davao City, Davao del Norte, Lanao del Sur and Iligan City will also remain under GCQ for the whole month of February.

The rest of the country remains under MGCQ, the least restrictive of all quarantine classifications.

The announcement of the new quarantine classifications came as the country faces the threat of the new, potentially more infectious B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant which was first identified in the United Kingdom.

The Philippines has so far detected 17 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, with 12 of the cases coming from Bontoc, Mountain Province and one more coming from La Trinidad, Benguet.

Several areas in the CAR, including Baguio City, have recorded a dramatic spike in cases in recent days, which surprised local officials.

Much of the country has been under varying degrees of community quarantine since March 2020, when President Rodrigo Duterte first imposed enhanced community quarantine, the strictest form of quarantine, on the entire mainland Luzon.

But 10 months into the longest lockdown in the world, there are no signs of the coronavirus outbreak abating, while the government pins its hopes on vaccines that have yet to reach the country's shores.

Independent think tank Lowy Institute tagged the Philippines as one of the "underperformers" in the Asia Pacific region, with the country ranking 79th out of almost 100 nations which it assessed for their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Duterte administration's response to COVID-19 had been marred early in the pandemic by its failure to ban travelers from China early and its insufficient testing and contact tracing drives.

It has also faced intense scrutiny over its militarized approach to a public health crisis.

The Philippines has reported nearly 520,000 cases of COVID-19, with nearly 11,000 deaths. It has the second-worst outbreak of the coronavirus in Southeast Asia, following Indonesia. — Xave Gregorio

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