Stricter health measures will be imposed by the government in Metro Manila and other provinces placed under a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) starting Tuesday (Aug. 4), including the suspension of public transportation, quarantine passes for residents and closure of nonessential establishments, Malacanang said Monday.
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Palace spokesman Harry Roque said the President put the National Capital Region, Laguna, Bulacan, Rizal and Cavite under MECQ to slow down the transmission of the virus, as recommended by doctors and other medical workers.
Under the MECQ, some businesses and public transport are expected to be closed in the capital, which is currently under the less-restrictive general community quarantine.
Work and quarantine passes will also be required, as authorities seek to restrict movements.
On Sunday evening, Duterte said he heard the grievances of doctors and nurses, saying “I have heard you. Don't lose hope. We are aware that you are tired.”
The country recorded 5,032 additional infections on Sunday, the country's largest single-day increase, taking its confirmed coronavirus cases to 103,185.
The death toll jumped by 20 to 2,059.
It was the second-highest number of COVID-19 infections and deaths in Southeast Asia, behind Indonesia.
Duterte also approved the hiring of 10,000 medical professionals to beef up the current workforce and additional benefits for health care workers treating COVID-19 patients, Roque said.
On March 15, Duterte imposed ECQ in Luzon and some parts of the Visayas and Mindanao, considered the world's longest and strictest lockdown to curb the coronavirus spread.
However, the government eased the restrictions in June in an effort to revive the domestic economy, which is now facing its biggest contraction in more than three decades.
Police will impose stricter measures at checkpoints in the city and municipal boundaries of Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal as these areas revert to MECQ, Joint Task Force Covid Shield commander Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said on Monday.
Eleazar said checkpoints would be set up in these areas to limit the movement of people. Only those authorized persons outside residence (APOR) are allowed to go out.
Eleazar advised residents of areas under MECQ to avail of the basic goods and services in their respective communities in compliance with the safety protocol of staying at home and avoiding unnecessary travel.
“We highly encourage them to buy food and avail other basic goods and services in their respective communities because they will not be allowed to pass the quarantine control points which we will set up anew at the borders of cities and municipalities of Metro Manila and the four provinces that would be reverted to MECQ,” Eleazar said.
Under MECQ, only one person per household will be allowed to go out to buy basic goods for the entire family, Eleazar said.
Those allowed to go out are required to have a quarantine pass issued by the local government units.
The number of quarantine checkpoints was reduced when GCQ was implemented. Only checkpoints in provincial and regional borders were retained.
The government on Monday announced that public transportation is not allowed, and some transportation services will remain limited for areas placed under the MECQ.
“For public transport, public shuttles will be allowed for frontline workers or those who will return to work in allowed industries under the MECQ, while bus, jeepney, taxi, TNVS, are not allowed. Tricycles are also not allowed, but with exceptions, subject to the guidelines set by the DILG and respective LGUs,” it added.
Operations of the PNR, LRT-1, LRT-2, and MRT-3 will remain suspended.
In a separate advisory, the Light Rail Manila Corporation (LRMC) said it will be temporarily suspending LRT-1 operations effective Aug. 4 until Aug. 18.
For private transport, company shuttles are allowed to operate with passenger capacity of 50 percent, and a special permit from the LTFRB for rented shuttles.
Personal vehicles in permitted sectors are also allowed, with two persons per row.
The use of bicycles, motorcycles, or e-scooters by APORs [Authorized Persons Outside Residence] is also allowed, with a maximum passenger capacity of one.
Barbershops, salons, internet cafes and review centers will not be allowed to operate in the next 15 days and restaurants may no longer accept dine-in business during the MECQ, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said Monday.
The decision was a "temporary step back" to heed the call of medical practitioners, Lopez said.
"Under the MECQ, there are still a number of business sectors allowed although most at limited scale, while some of the recently allowed sectors under GCQ such as dine-in restaurants, barbershops, salons, and the recent additions such as gyms, review and testing centers, other personal grooming shops, internet cafes, shall not be allowed temporarily in the next 15 days," Lopez said.
Some businesses are still allowed to operate at 100 capacity during the MECQ including:
• Agriculture, forestry and fisheries
• Production of essential hygiene products, medicines, vitamins, PPEs, masks and other medical supplies
• Essential retail such as groceries, markets, convenience stores and drug stores
• Water refilling stations• Laundry services
• Hospitals, clinics
• Logistics services
• Delivery and courier services
• Telcos, energy and power companies
• Gasoline stations
• Essential constructions (isolation faciities, etc)
• Electronic commerce
• Postal services
• Funeral, embalming, security
• Capital markets
Business allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity under MECQ:
• Other manufacturing
• Office admin, support
• Financial services (money exchange)
• Legal and accounting
• Management consultancy
• Advertising and market research
• Architectural activities
• Publishing and printing
• Film, music, and TV production
• Restaurant delivery and takeout
• Malls and commercial centers - non leisure only
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the MECQ could hurt livelihoods, consumer demand and production in the short run, but if the time is used to boost the country's medical resources to prevent the further spread of the virus, then it will be positive for the long haul.
Dominguez added that the whole world was “learning how to dance with the virus: two steps forward and one step back.”
But ING Bank Manila senior economist Nicholas Mapa said consumption, which drives the economy, would take another hit.
“We are increasingly worried that the Philippines is indeed headed into a severe crash landing with the probability of the economy returning to its former glory any time soon now declining by the day,” Mapa said.
Mapa said with the economic growth engine crippled, the continued spread of the virus weighed on any hopes of a recovery.
Borrowings of the national government have already reached P1.22 trillion in the first four months of 2020, which were used to finance COVID-19 response efforts.
Bureau of the Treasury data also showed that the outstanding debt of the government ballooned to a record P9.054 trillion as of the first half of this year.
In the first quarter, the economy contracted by 0.2 percent, a reversal of the 5.7-percent growth a year ago, and 6.4 percent in the last quarter of 2019, pulled down by the Taal Volcano eruption in January and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Economists believe contraction could be deeper in the second quarter because the lockdowns—several times extended by the government to effectively contain the spread of the disease—encompassed almost the entire April-to-June period.
On Monday, Moody’s Analytics, a financial intelligence firm that operates independently of the Moody’s Investors Service credit rating agency, projected that GDP contraction in the second quarter could hit 2.5 percent due to the debilitating impact of the pandemic.
The government is scheduled to release the second-quarter GDP data on Thursday.
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