Metro Manila and four nearby provinces are likely to be shifted to the less restrictive general community quarantine (GCQ) after May 14, the Palace said Monday.
In a virtual press briefing, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said it is the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) that would decide whether to shift to GCQ or extend the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ), but said he was hopeful the task force would ease quarantine restrictions amid a decline in new COVID-19 cases.
Roque, who is also a spokesman for the IATF, said a shift to a GCQ is likely based on a formula that takes into account the rate of health care utilization, the daily attack rate, and the reproduction number.
“Health care utilization in the National Capital Region has been downgraded to the moderate risk category, the attack rate is decreasing and the reproduction number is less than 1 already,” he said.
“What is important is that we achieve total health because if we only focus on preventing COVID-19 transmission, many people will suffer because of poverty while our economy is shut [due to a lockdown],” Roque said.
President Rodrigo Duterte will make the announcement on new quarantine classifications before May 15.
The IATF, meanwhile, has placed Cagayan, Apayao, and Benguet under an MECQ from May 10 to 23. The provinces had previously been under the less stringent GCQ.
The province of Apayao already announced on its official Facebook page Sunday its MECQ status for 14 days to prevent coronavirus infections from spreading.
The Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) had 3,065 active COVID-19 cases as of Sunday, while Apayao had 85 and Benguet, 529.
Cagayan had the most active cases in Region 2 – 1,893 of the total 4,939 – also as of Sunday’s data.
Also under MECQ until May 14 are the National Capital Region Plus (Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal) and Ifugao, and until May 31 Quirino and Abra provinces and Santiago City in Isabela.
Baguio City, Kalinga, Mountain Province, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Batangas, Quezon, Iligan City, Davao City, Lanao del Sur, and Puerto Princesa City are under general community quarantine (GCQ) also until May 31.
The rest of the country is under modified GCQ.
The Philippines logged on Monday registered 6,846 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total infections since the pandemic began to 1,108,826, as five laboratories were not able to submit their data on time, the Department of Health (DOH) reported.
The number of new cases is the lowest in four days, or since May 6 when 6,637 additional infections were announced.
The DOH reported 90 new fatalities, bringing the death toll to 18,562, which is 1.67 percent of the total cases.
The department also reported 8,193 new recoveries, bringing the total recoveries to 1,030,367, which is 92.9 percent of the total.
The DOH reported 59,897 active cases, which is 5.4 percent of the total. Of the active cases, 93.7 percent were mild, 2.2 percent were asymptomatic, 1.3 percent were critical, 1.7 percent were severe, and 1.1 percent were moderate.
The number is the lowest in nearly two months, or since March 16 when 57,404 active infections were recorded.
The DOH also reported that, nationwide, 61 percent of the ICU beds, 43 percent of the isolation beds, 49 percent of the ward beds, and 40 percent of the ventilators were in use.
In Metro Manila, 67 percent of the ICU beds, 47 percent of the isolation beds, 51 percent of the ward beds, and 47 percent of the ventilators were in use.
The OCTA Research Group, which has been tracking the pandemic, on Monday urged the government to remain cautious in deciding on new quarantine classifications come May 15 to sustain the fruits of the strict community quarantine in NCR Plus.
OCTA Research fellow Prof. Ranjit Rye said their group would support the government whether it extends the MECQ for one to two more weeks in the region or shift it under the more relaxed GCQ but with modifications and stricter monitoring of minimum public health standards.
“What we’re suggesting is a calibrated slow exit strategy so that we can sustain the trends,” Rye said.
Noting that only a few industries are closed to prevent infection transmission, Rye said the NCR is “almost in the GCQ status.”
“If they comply with minimum public health standards, if they have the engineering to prevent transmission within their business establishments, and if their employees are vaccinated, I think we can slowly open up. The key here is to have a gradual exit,” he added.
While the reproduction number in the region is down to 0.67, Rye noted the average daily attack rate and positivity rate of COVID-19 cases remain high.
The attack rate is the proportion of people who become ill with (or who die from) a disease in a population initially free of the disease. The positivity rate is the percentage of tests for the coronavirus that come back positive.