President Rodrigo Duterte has placed NCR Plus (Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal) under the less restrictive modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) from April 12 to April 30, Malacañang said on Sunday.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte made this decision after more public and private hospitals committed to provide rooms and beds dedicated to COVID-19 patients.
Duterte last week urged the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to expedite the payment of claims of hospitals.
“Because of the President’s directive to PhilHealth to pay unpaid COVID-19 claims, more private, national government and local government unit hospitals have committed to provide additional COVID-19 beds, especially ICU beds in NCR Plus,” Roque said in Filipino.
PhilHealth earlier approved the application of a debit-credit payment method (DCPM) to facilitate the settlement of accounts payable to health care facilities during the state of public health emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is one of the critical bases of the IATF to recommend to the President to ease the quarantine classification in NCR Plus to MECQ,” he added, referring to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
Also under MECQ are the City of Santiago in Isabela, Quirino province in Region 2, and Abra in the Cordillera Administrative Region.
Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya (Region 2), Batangas (Region 4-A), Tacloban City (Region 8), Iligan City (Region 10), Davao City (Region 11), and Lanao del Sur (BARMM), and Quezon will be under general community quarantine (GCQ).
The rest of the Philippines will be under the least restrictive modified general community quarantine (MGCQ).
The Metro Manila Council, meanwhile, has agreed to impose new curfew as the MECQ starts.
Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman Benhur Abalos said Metro Manila mayors have agreed to implement unified curfew hours from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting April 12 until the end of MECQ on April 30.
Abalos also noted that the local chief executives, under the new rules approved by the IATF, have powers in adjusting curfew hours in the National Capital Region.
The Metro Manila Council, composed of the 17 LGUs of Metro Manila, is the policy- making body of the MMDA.
Authorized persons outside residence (APOR) are still exempted from the curfew provided they show proof of identification or certificate of employment to authorities.
The Philippines logged 11,681 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, bringing the total to 864,868, as six laboratories failed to submit their data on time, the Department of Health (DOH) reported.
The department reported 201 new fatalities, bringing the death toll due to COVID-19 to 14,945, which is 1.73 percent of total cases.
The DOH also reported that 55,204 recently recovered, bringing the total recoveries to 703,404, which is 81.3 percent of the total.
This left 146,519 active cases, which is 16.9 percent of the total cases. Of the active cases, 96.8 percent were mild; 1.7 percent were asymptomatic; 0.5 percent were critical; 0.6 percent were severe; and 0.34 percent were moderate.
The DOH also reported that , nationwide, 65 percent of the ICU beds are in use; 50 percent of the isolation beds are in use; 52 percent of the ward beds are in use; and 44 percent of the ventilators are being used.
In Metro Manila, 86 percent of the ICU beds are in use; 69 percent of the isolation beds are in use; 57 percent of the ward beds are in use; and 60 percent of the ventilators are being used.
Roque said private and public hospitals in NCR Plus have committed to provide 164 ICU beds for critical COVID-19 patients and 1,157 COVID-19 regular beds for moderate and severe patients.
In a statement, Roque urged LGUs in the NCR Plus to set up their respective local telehealth triaging systems equipped with sufficient medical personnel to provide immediate medical and patient referral advice.
Roque said there must be an adequate number of COVID-19 dedicated beds, complementary health human resources, and well-coordinated triage and referral systems in place at the LGUs, isolation and quarantine facilities, and health facilities.
He reminded LGUs in NCR Plus to prioritize the generation of demand for vaccination to those with highest risk for severe disease and death, particularly priority groups A2 and A3 (senior citizens and those with co-morbidities) of the national deployment and vaccination plan for COVID-19.
The Palace did not release any new guidelines on the MECQ, but existing rules say strict home quarantine must be observed in all households under MECQ. Movement of persons will be limited to accessing essential goods and services, and for work in permitted offices or establishments or such activities allowed.
Persons below 18 years old, those who are over 65 years old, those with immunodeficiency, comorbidity, or other health risks, and pregnant women are required to remain at home at all times except for obtaining essential goods and services or for work.
Under the IATF-EID guidelines, the following establishments, persons, or activities shall not be permitted to operate, work, or be undertaken during MECQ:
• Entertainment venues with live performers such as karaoke bars, bars, clubs, concert halls, theaters, and cinemas;
• Recreational venues such as internet cafes, billiard halls, amusement arcades, bowling alleys, and similar venues;
• Amusement parks or theme parks, fairs/peryas, kid amusement industries such as playgrounds, playroom and kiddie rides;
• Outdoor sports courts or venues for contact sports, scrimmages, games, or activities;
• Indoor sports courts or venues, fitness studios, gyms, spas or other indoor leisure centers or facilities, and swimming pools;
• Casinos, horse racing, cockfighting and operation of cockpits, lottery and betting shops, and other gaming establishments except for the draws conducted by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office;
• Indoor visitor or tourist attractions, libraries, archives, museums, galleries, and cultural shows and exhibits;
• Outdoor tourist attractions;
• Venues for meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions;
• Personal care services which include beauty salons, beauty parlors, medical esthetic clinics, cosmetic or derma clinics, make-up salons, nail spas, reflexology, aesthetics, wellness and holistic centers, and other similar establishments; acupuncture and electrocautery establishments, and massage therapy including sports therapy establishments. It also includes establishments providing tanning services, body piercings, tattooing and similar services. Home service for these activities is likewise not permitted; and
• Indoor dine-in services of food preparation establishments such as commissaries, restaurants, and eateries.
The Department of Health (DOH), the University of the Philippines-Philippine Genome Center (UP-PGC), and the University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH) on Saturday night detected one P.1 variant case, 170 B.1.1.7 variant cases, 192 B.1.351 variant cases, and 19 P.3 variant cases in the latest COVID-19 sample sequencing.
These were among two batches of 25 samples sequenced on March 28, and 1,336 samples sequenced between March 28 to April 8.
Of the additional 170 B.1.1.7 variant cases, eight cases are returning overseas Filipinos, 119 are local cases, and 43 cases are currently being verified. Based on the case line list, two cases have died and 168 cases have recovered.
Of the additional 192 B.1.351 variant cases, one case is a returning overseas Filipino, 143 are local cases, and 48 cases are currently being verified. Based on the case line list, two cases are still active, three cases have died, and 187 cases have recovered.
The one active P.1 variant case is a returning overseas Filipino from Brazil with current address in SOCCSKSARGEN.
Of the 19 additional P.3 variant cases, two are returning overseas Filipinos, 10 are local cases, and seven cases being verified. All cases have recovered.
“With the increasing number of variant cases being detected, the DOH reiterates that alongside the prevent, detect, isolate, treat, and recover (PDITR) strategies being implemented by the government and the imposition of the enhanced community quarantine to reduce contact rate and limit the spread of variants, strict and consistent adherence to the minimum public health standards and increased support for the National Vaccination Program will significantly mitigate transmission of COVID-19,” the statement read.
In other developments:
• The Palace said the country's COVID-19 response managers have approved the use of automatic contact tracing through the Smart Messaging System, to improve the use of its StaySafe.PH System, the government's official social distancing, COVID-19 health condition reporting and contact tracing system.
• Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon sees mass testing and not lockdowns and quarantines as the solution to the increase in COVID-19 cases. "Our active cases are 190,000 plus, the highest in ASEAN. The DOH and the IATF always see ECQ as the solution," Drilon said.
• Health reform advocate Dr. Anthony Leachon said the ECQ the last two weeks has failed to bring down the surge in cases and the increase in the number of COVID-19-related deaths. He noted that the Philippines' new cases even under ECQ the past weeks were breaking records in Southeast Asia.
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