In the country’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, there are times when it seems that all progress takes a step forward, before moving two or even three steps back. The gradual loosening of extra restrictions on top of the General Community Quarantine over Metro Manila this month alone was initially held up as a ray of hope. But health experts warned on the coming of the dreaded Delta variant of COVID from overseas, which has over 100 cases in the Philippines now. Small wonder then that heightened restrictions have returned to the National Capital Region, ahead of going back to Enhanced Community Quarantine next month.
CNN Philippines reports that heightened additional restrictions have been put back on the original GCQ status for Metro Manila. It will last until next week on August 5. ECQ status will kick back in the following day, August 6, and will continue until the 20th of the month. This was the official policy pushed by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on COVID-19, as announced this Friday, July 30, by Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque. The IATF’s position was prevailed upon by the Mayors of the constituents of the NCR which met with them the day before.
The specifics of the IATF Resolution 130-A have it thus: this Friday is the last day for outdoor dining for a time, as it will be prohibited again starting Saturday, July 31, under the heightened GCQ restrictions. No indoor sports venues and tourist attractions will be allowed to operate; the same goes for Department of Tourism specialized marketplaces. Personal care services and outdoor tourist spots are dialed back to 30% max capacity. Religious gatherings are strictly virtual again. And while public transport will be unaffected, only authorized persons (APORs) will be allowed to travel out of the NCR Plus bubble.
Once Enhanced Community Quarantine returns in Metro Manila and neighboring provinces, affected families will be able to avail of social amelioration according to the NCR Mayors, plus an additional 4 million doses of COVID vaccine prioritized for the bubble. It is here that Sec. Roque notes some divergences with the Mayors’ wishes, in that only 2 million new vaccine doses are guaranteed earmarked for Metro Manila, and that the national government may not have enough funds to add to the cities’ “ayuda” for those affected by the impending ECQ lockdown.
At the latest, Quezon City in Metro Manila has returned to be the top COVID hotspot in the country, the last time of which it peaked was back in May. As of Thursday, there are now 216 cases of Delta variant COVID throughout the Philippines.
Image from Manila Bulletin