MECQ extended in Metro Manila, other areas until May 14

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The modified enhanced community quarantine status of Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal will remain in place for another two weeks, but with more businesses reopening, President Rodrigo Duterte announced on Wednesday. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 28) — The modified enhanced community quarantine status of Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal will remain in place for another two weeks, President Rodrigo Duterte announced on Wednesday.

The MECQ declaration in the greater Manila area, also known as NCR Plus, is extended until May 14. Santiago City in Isabela, and the provinces of Quirino and Abra will also remain under MECQ from May 1 to 31, Duterte added.

MMDA Chairman Benhur Abalos said there will be some changes to the MECQ for May in terms of businesses allowed to reopen, but border controls in the NCR Plus bubble will remain strict. Metro Manila mayors have recommended a "flexible MECQ," which they believe is the middle ground between MECQ and general community quarantine so more businesses can operate.

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The Department of Trade has yet to issue which industries can reopen starting May 1. But Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez earlier pushed for the resumption of personal care services, such as salons and spas, even with an initial 10% capacity.

During the start of MECQ in mid-April, travel was limited to accessing essential goods and for those working in permitted establishments. Businesses that allowed to operate at 50% capacity during ECQ were allowed to fully open, while other sectors such as media establishments, medical clinics, banks, and other specific establishments were allowed to reopen at half capacity.

RELATED: MECQ guidelines in April 2021: What we know so far

Meanwhile, general community quarantine will be imposed on the following areas starting May:

- CAR: Apayao, Baguio City, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, Mountain Province

- Region 2: Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya

- Region 4-A: Batangas, Quezon

- Region 8: Tacloban City

- Region 10: Iligan City

- Region 11: Davao City

- BARMM: Lanao del Sur

The rest of the country will be placed under the more relaxed modified general community quarantine for the entire month of May, but authorities will be giving special attention to high-risk areas in Luzon, Western Visayas and Zamboanga Peninsula.

The MECQ status was supposed to end on April 30. NCR Plus eased to MECQ on April 12 after being placed under the strictest enhanced community quarantine for two weeks to ease the congestion in hospitals that stemmed from the fresh surge in COVID-19 cases.

The Department of Health earlier recommended that the MECQ be extended in NCR Plus for a week or two, arguing that while the number of new infections is declining, the COVID-19 bed occupancy rates remain high.

During the early stages of the surge in March, reports on social media showed families of COVID-19 patients from Metro Manila have reached outlying provinces in search of medical attention. Some, meanwhile, were not able to make it inside health facilities even hours after waiting in line to be accommodated.

The Philippines has recently marked grim milestones, including breaching one million cases on April 26 and seeing the deadliest day of the pandemic on April 9, with 401 COVID-19 deaths.

The DOH has so far logged 1,020,495 cases nationwide, of which 17,031 resulted in deaths. Meanwhile, 935,695 have been tagged as recovered.