COVER STORY

EXPLAINER: What you need to know about the NCR Plus bubble

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal are placed under a stricter general community quarantine to control the surge in coronavirus cases in the country.

CNN Philippines breaks down all the things you should know about the two-week GCQ bubble that is in place from March 22 to April 4.

What is a bubble?

A bubble setup applies to a cluster of people restricted from going in and out of a covered area unless they are authorized to do so.

Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal — also known as the "NCR plus" — are placed under one bubble setup from March 22 to April 4, which means only authorized persons can do essential travel into and out of these areas. Essential travel between these provinces is also allowed, National Task Force against COVID-19 spokesperson Restituto Padilla said.

The government clarified that this is different from a lockdown, because most businesses in these areas remain operational. However, tighter restrictions are in place to control mobility for two weeks.

The whole bubble is also placed under a unified curfew scheme which runs from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., but workers, cargo vehicles and public transportation will not be restricted.

Who are allowed to travel in and out of the bubble?

According to Resolution 104 adopted by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, only authorized persons outside their residences can get in and out of the bubble. These are:

- Essential workers with valid identification cards

- Health and emergency frontline service personnel

- Government officials

- Duly-authorized humanitarian assistance workers

- Persons traveling for humanitarian reasons

- Persons going for travel abroad

- Persons crossing zones for work or business or going back home

- Returning overseas Filipinos and overseas Filipino workers

Identification cards and even expired IATF passes may still be presented to authorities when crossing borders, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.

RELATED: Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal revert to GCQ until April 4 as COVID-19 cases continue to rise 

Who can move around within the bubble?

Those aged below 18 years old and above 65, those with comorbidity and other health risks, as well as pregnant women must remain in their residences.

However, the IATF said exceptions can be made if indispensable activities must be done, such as obtaining essential goods and services, or for work in their respective industries and offices.

Persons above 65 years may also be allowed for outdoor non-contact sports and other forms of outdoor exercises. Persons with disability may also be allowed outdoors for their therapy upon presentation of prescription from their physicians or their PWD ID. Minors are still barred from going out of their homes.

What outdoor activities are allowed?

Stricter protocols were placed in all restaurants, cafes, and other food establishments. Services are also now limited to delivery, take-out and outdoor dining in Metro Manila and four nearby provinces.

RELATED: IATF bans indoor dining in NCR, 4 nearby provinces for two weeks 

For outdoor dining, customers are limited to only 50% of the venue capacity, with only two diners per table. They must also be seated at least one seat apart, in a diagonal configuration.

Parlors, salons and other personal health care services may continue operating at 50% capacity, and in observance of other health protocols.

Mass gatherings, including large religious activities are prohibited but weddings, baptisms, and funerals may be held with only 10 participants.

The following operations are also temporarily suspended:

- Driving schools

- Traditional cinemas

- Video and interactive game arcades

- Libraries

- Archives

- Museums

- Cultural centers

- Cockfighting and cockpit operations, including in MGCQ areas

- Social events at accredited establishments of the Department of Transportation

- Gyms

- Spas

- Internet cafes

Meanwhile, the private sector is encouraged to adopt a 30 to 50% on-site capacity. Work-from-home arrangements are strongly encouraged.

Roque clarified that staycations within the bubble are still allowed, as long as minors and the elderly are not included. Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat also confirmed this in a television interview on Monday.

READ: Despite COVID-19 surge, staycations within NCR Plus bubble still allowed 

The government previously said non-essential travel, even to other households within the bubble, are strongly discouraged for the meantime.

How will public transportation operate?

Public transportation will retain its current capacity and protocols will still be maintained in accordance with the guidelines previously issued by the Transportation Department.

The following measures must still be observed inside public vehicles:

- Wear face masks and face shields

- No talking and making phone calls

- No eating

- Keep public utility vehicles well-ventilated

- Conduct frequent disinfection

- Do not allow passengers with COVID-19 symptoms inside

- Observe appropriate physical distancing

Biking and walking are also encouraged during essential trips.