Metro Manila mayors seek another round of GCQ for October

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 28) — The local chief executives in the National Capital Region have recommended to extend the general community quarantine (GCQ) status in Metro Manila for the whole month of October, San Juan City Mayor Francis Zamora disclosed on Monday.

The 17 mayors met with several members of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Sunday to present their recommendation for the announcement of the next round of quarantine status.

Zamora relayed that it was the "consensus" to again place the capital region under GCQ. He said it is no longer a question of choosing between health or economy during the COVID-19 pandemic, but to find the perfect balance on how to help businesses recover from what he called the "economic crunch" while protecting the public from the highly-contagious virus that has infected over 300,000 Filipinos.

"It is now the health and the economy," he told CNN Philippines. "So, it is now preparing to open up additional operating capacities of businesses. Even if we retain the GCQ status, it is possible to still slowly increase the operational capacity, meaning the number of people that can work, the number of customers that establishments can allow to enter. So, these are now being prepared."

Jojo Garcia, general manager of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), said Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, who was present during the meeting, proposed to allow select establishments to increase their operating capacity, which will give workers more opportunities to earn.

The Cabinet secretary said this is a good "alternative" as compared to easing the quarantine classification to the most relaxed modified GCQ. He said some sectors, such as legal and accounting firms and other services in the film industry, should be allowed to adjust from 50 percent operating capacity to a full-blown operation.

"Kahit GCQ pa rin tayo but at least we open some more the economy," Lopez said during a budget hearing in the Senate on Monday. "That is also a good alternative (to MGCQ)... That can be made from 50% to 100% operating capacity to allow more workers na makabalik sa kanilang mga trabaho. That would be a big help,"

[Translation: Even if we stay under GCQ, at least we can open the economy more, that is a good alternative. That can be made from 50% to 100% operating capacity to allow more workers to return to work.]

Metro Manila has been under GCQ since June 1, excluding the two-week return to a stricter modified enhanced community quarantine in the first half of August. Under GCQ, public transportation is allowed to operate at a reduced capacity and most industries are permitted to open.

Zamora said the GCQ should be extended to sustain the decreasing number of new COVID-19 cases in the region. This is the same position of the researchers from the University of the Philippines, which noted that Metro Manila showed a decline of over 50 percent in its daily cases compared to five weeks ago. They were quick to stress that the country may lose its gains with a "premature" easing to modified GCQ.

"We would be careful not to move to MGCQ yet because we are not yet fully healed," UP OCTA Fellow Prof. Guido David told CNN Philippines on Sept. 26.

The recommendation of the Metro Manila mayors will go through the IATF. It will make the proposal to President Rodrigo Duterte, who is set to announce his final decision on the fate of the region this week.

The Department of Health (DOH) has confirmed 304,226 COVID-19 cases in the country, which includes 252,510 recoveries and 5,344 deaths. Health spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said the (DOH) has noted a downward trend in the daily recorded cases in the country.