The Philippines has been battling the COVID-19 pandemic for about a year and a half now, and even with health and safety protocols, incoming vaccines and quarantines or lockdowns of significantly affected communities, the number of new positive cases – and worse, deaths – have been worryingly high. Not helping are the appearance of the mutated strains from overseas like the Delta variant, and even the rise of local mutations like the Theta variant. In response to this, Metro Manila was put back under enhanced community quarantine two weeks ago. This past Thursday their next quarantine level and that of nearby Laguna has been announced: modified ECQ.
CNN Philippines reports that the National Capital Region and Laguna will transition to modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) effective this coming Saturday, August 21. This was announced August 19 by President Rodrigo Duterte upon his approval of the motion from the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), and barring any resurgent spikes of COVID infections, it will remain so until the end of the month. In addition, the province of Bataan which has been under similar ECQ status will downgrade to MECQ starting next Monday, August 23 until August 31 also, according to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.
This easing-down of quarantine levels in the nation’s capital and neighboring provinces comes following some of the highest single-day new COVID case counts since the pandemic began, while the Delta variant infection figures now stand at more than 800 of the total 1,791,003 cases thus far. Then again, even with the impending return to MECQ (last declared for Metro Manila last April), the original regulations from months ago that gave allowances to outdoor dining-in (50% capacity with diagonal seating and acrylic dividers) and religious gatherings (10% capacity with LGU-approvable 30% max) remain scrubbed in favor of complete prohibition, with religious gatherings being strictly virtual only.
But there is some loosening of restrictions all the same. Metro Manila Council Chairman Mayor Edwin Olivarez of Parañaque announced that as soon as MECQ arrives in NCR this weekend, there will no longer be implementation of quarantine passes for local residents. Next, each Metro Manila LGU now has its own discretion on whether to maintain or lift the Liquor Ban, and enforce granular lockdowns on any neighborhoods with high COVID cases. Lastly, any ECQ financial assistance or “ayuda” that has not been distributed to Metro Manila recipients are still mandated to be given out even when MECQ sets in.
The OCTA Research Group advises caution on the ECQ-MECQ shift in the NCR, adding that to capitalize on earlier quarantine effects, COVID infections in neighboring provinces must be curbed quickly. These LGUs have been tasked to intensify vaccination drives and enforcing health and safety protocols.
Image from Business World Online