Cebu City eases to modified ECQ, Metro Manila stays under GCQ

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 15) — Cebu City will shift to modified enhanced community quarantine starting Thursday after being placed under the strictest lockdown restrictions for 15 days due to the spike in COVID-19 cases.

Meanwhile, the general community quarantine (GCQ) over Metro Manila will be extended until July 31, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced Wednesday night.

The community quarantine status in Cebu City was eased from the strictest enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) to MECQ despite a recent surge in infections, which involved more patients experiencing severe symptoms and needing critical care.

The city is said to be the new epicenter of the local coronavirus outbreak.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases determines quarantine rules for an area based on how fast the number of infections double there and how full critical care facilities are.

The national government is paying more attention to Cebu City, which has the highest number of confirmed cases among cities and provinces nationwide. President Rodrigo Duterte on June 22 appointed Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu as the new COVID-19 response chief for Visayas, who brought in hundreds of security troops to enforce the strict stay-at-home measures.

The Department of Health has also ordered the deployment of doctors — including “doctors to the barrios” — to Cebu City to help aid its battle against the COVID-19 crisis. This directive came after Cebu nurses appealed for hazard pay amid surge in COVID-19 cases.

The President also heeded the recommendation of the task force to put the following areas under GCQ starting July 16: Laguna, Cavite, Rizal, Lapu-Lapu City, Mandaue City, Ormoc City, Southern Leyte, Zamboanga City, Butuan City, Agusan del Norte, Basilan, and Talisay, Minglanilla, and Concepcion in Cebu Province.

Meanwhile, the following areas will be placed under MGCQ (medium-risk):

• CAR- Benguet, Baguio City

• Region 1 - Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, Pangasinan, La Union, Dagupan City

• Region 2 – Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya

• Region 3 – Bataan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Bulacan, Tarlac, Zambales, Angeles City

• Region 4A – Batangas, Quezon, Lucena City

• Region 4B – Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro, Puerto Princesa City

• Region 5 – Albay, Masbate, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Sorsogon, Naga City

• Region 6 – Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Capiz, Antique, Aklan, Guimaras, Iloilo City, Bacolod City

• Region 7 – Negros Oriental, Bohol, Cebu Province

• Region 8 – Western Samar, Leyte, Biliran, Tacloban City

• Region 9 – Zamboanga Del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga Del Norte

• Region 10 – Misamis Occidental, Bukidnon, Lanao Del Norte, Cagayan de Oro City, Iligan City•

• Region 11 – Davao Oriental, Davao Del Norte, Davao Del Sur, Davao De Oro, Davao City

• Region 12 – Sultan Kudarat, Cotabato, South Cotabato, General Santos City

• Region 13 – Agusan Del Sur, Dinagat Islands, Surigao Del Norte, Surigao Del Sur

• BARMM – Lanao Del Sur, Maguindanao

Other areas not mentioned will be placed under a so-called low-risk MGCQ, according to Roque.

‘Metro Manila may return to MECQ if cases do not drop’

While experts from the University of the Philippines recommended to revert the quarantine status in Metro Manila to a stricter MECQ, Roque said the President opted to give the region a chance to continue gradually reopening its economy.

He said the decision not to tighten restrictions in the country’s capital region was also made amid promises from Metro Manila mayors to intensify efforts to test, trace, and treat residents.

Local government officials also vowed to strictly implement quarantine rules in their respective jurisdictions, Roque added.

“Pero malinaw po sa discussion na pag ‘di pa rin po bumagal ang pagkalat ng COVID-19 sa Metro Manila, posible pong bumalik sa MECQ pagkatapos nitong dalawang linggo,” he warned.

[Translation: But it was clear in our discussion that if COVID-19 transmission in Metro Manila does not slow down, it is possible for the region to revert to MECQ after the next two weeks.]

Recent daily case reports by the DOH showed that Metro Manila continued to log the most number of new cases in the country.

In the latest bulletin which listed over 1,300 new cases nationwide, half or around 700 cases came from the region alone. More hospitals in the area have also declared full capacity of their COVID-19 facilities in recent days.

Nationwide, the DOH recorded 58,850 COVID-19 cases as of July 15. Of this number, 20,976 have recovered, while have 1,614 died.