Malacañang is not ruling out the possibility that Metro Manila, where there are 13 million residents and workers, may shift to a modified general community quarantine next month.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque told a press conference in Bataan this was not impossible since he claimed the government had checked the rise of COVID-19 infections and deaths since the total lockdown was imposed in Luzon on March 17.
Roque made the statement after Parañaque City Mayor Edwin Olivarez, chairperson of the Metro Manila Council, said on Wednesday the National Capital Region’s quarantine status might be downgraded to MGCQ next month if COVID-19 cases continued to decline and the public would observe the minimum health protocols.
MGCQ is the least restrictive in the government’s four-tier quarantine classification system, meaning more businesses will be allowed to operate but public health measures such as wearing of masks and social distancing will remain in effect.
Roque’s statement coincided with official reports the Philippines logged on Thursday 2,415 new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases, bringing the total to 314,079 in the country.
The Department of Health also reported 771 recoveries, bringing the total number of recoveries to 254,223.
At the same time, the DOH reported 59 new fatalities, bringing the death toll to 5,562.
Of the 59 deaths, 37 occurred in September (63 percent), 10 in August (17 percent) 9 in July (15 percent) 1 in June (2 percent) and 2 in April (3 percent).
The Philippines has tested 3,524,282 individuals. There are 105 licensed RT-PCR laboratories and 33 licensed GeneXpert laboratories in the country.
The University of the Philippines OCTA Group estimates total cases to reach 380,000 to 410,000 by the end of October.
Meanwhile, the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) will allow restaurants opened in a dining set-up to operate 24/7 or beyond curfew hours.
Trade and Industry Secretary and IAFT lead Ramon Lopez said the IATF would come up with the draft that would allow establishments to fully open starting October 1, 2020.
“Today we’re finishing the draft to allow sectors and establishments on 50 percent capacity to reopen up to 100 percent, especially the services sector,” he said Thursday.
“But we leave it up to the LGUs to help us determine, especially those LGUs in Metro Manila, as to the extent of reopening of the restaurants with dine-in services,” he added.
He noted that many restaurants and diners were still observing the 50 percent allowable dine-in capacity with specific emphasis on physical distancing.
The IATF will also be safely increasing the operations of barbershops and salons from 50 to 75 percent, with strict adherence to physical distancing but would like to keep status quo on other sectors under MGCQ like review and testing centers, drive in cinemas and pet grooming, medical aesthetics other personal care services.
Lopez said the full opening of the services sector would create many jobs opportunities for displaced workers.
The Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. (PAMPI) fully supported the full reopening of businesses.
“While we recognize that there are risks associated with opening up more businesses, we believe that Secretary Lopez’s proposal will be more beneficial to our economy and to our people in the long run for as long as the standard protocols for Covid-19 prevention are strictly observed,” said PAMPI president Felix Tiukinhoy Jr.
A group of families and friends of political prisoners on Wednesday called for a dialogue with authorities to implement measures against COVID-19 inside detention facilities.
Kapatid spokesperson Fides Lim, in a virtual forum, urged the government to release more prisoners amid concerns over the spread of the virus inside crowded jails.
Lim said it had been 6 months since they last visited their relatives because of the lockdowns.
“We don’t know what is really going on because prison authorities are silent about the real condition of prisoners in the midst of unreported deaths,” she said.
Lim is the wife of National Democractic Front consultant Vicente Ladlad, arrested in November 2018 for illegal possession of firearms charges. Ladlad said the evidence was planted.