NCR mayors split on quarantine status for May

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 26) — Four Metro Manila mayors expressed opposing views on what community quarantine classification the government should set for May, as hospitals in the capital region remain packed with COVID-19 patients.

San Juan Mayor Francis Zamora on Monday called for a two-week extension of the modified enhanced community quarantine over Metro Manila despite experts' report of a slight decrease in new COVID-19 cases.

"I'd rather stay under MECQ then reassess again after two weeks. It's really hard to open the economy at this point because even if we are improving, we can improve even further," he told CNN Philippines.

The Health Department, OCTA Research Group, and groups of physicians and hospitals are also batting for an extension of the MECQ over Metro Manila, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, and Bulacan once it expires on April 30.

Health experts have presented three options for community quarantine come May: MECQ until end of May, MECQ then shift to general community quarantine by May 15, or shift to GCQ starting May 1.

In its report on Sunday, OCTA said the national capital region's new daily COVID-19 cases averaged at 3,841 during the April 18 to 24 period, which translates to a 20% decline from the week before.

Philippine College of Physicians Vice President Dr. Maricar Limpin also said Monday hospitals haven't seen the effect of the two weeks of ECQ then another 14 days of MECQ, so it's only prudent to extend the lockdown.

However, Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte said she is in favor of easing quarantine restrictions in the NCR Plus bubble to general community quarantine next month. She said this is her position after she observed “social unrest in communities” due to unemployment and hunger caused by lockdowns.

Community pantries have sprouted across the country, starting in Quezon City, with ordinary citizens helping feed fellow Filipinos amid the pandemic. However, the social effort has led to one death and crowding — which some fear could cause a spike in COVID-19 cases due to lack of physical distancing in lines.

Marikina Mayor Marcy Teodoro and Mandaluyong Mayor Menchie Abalos agree that a shift to GCQ is necessary to spur economic activities and lessen impact on businesses and workers.

"The economy must take its leap to help the community," Abalos said in a text message.

"Many of our residents are losing jobs and our small businesses are closing because of the lack of economic activity due to the strict quarantine rules. With that, I see the need to gradually open our economic activities," Teodoro told CNN Philippines' Newsroom Ngayon.

Zamora said the 17 local chief executives of Metro Manila will meet with economic managers on Monday before they cast their votes. Metro Manila mayors usually vote as a whole due to the porous region. Their vote will be taken into consideration by the Inter-agency Task Force for pandemic response, which will issue the recommendation to President Rodrigo Duterte. The final decision is expected to be released during Duterte's address to the nation on Wednesday.

CNN Philippines correspondent Crissy Dimatulac contributed to this report.