Shift to GCQ will depend on COVID-19 data, Trade Chief says

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 4) — Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez on Tuesday said improving COVID-19 figures will dictate if parts of the country can shift to a more relaxed community quarantine status — even as his fellow economic manager pushes for a shift from MECQ to GCQ by this month.

He said the shift can happen by mid-May or at the end of the month if new COVID-19 cases go down and if the critical care capacity in Metro Manila and nearby areas improves.

"Even after May 15, everything will depend on numero na bumababa ang COVID cases, yung r-naught (reproductive number), tsaka kung dumami na ang libreng ICU beds, that will allow us to scale down or deescalate sa GCQ. It will depend, in the end, sa numero," he told CNN Philippines.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua, who is also director general of the National Economic and Development Authority, earlier said Metro Manila needs to "move out of MECQ by middle or end of the month" due to the capital region's contribution to the country's economic performance.

Lopez, however, agreed that lockdowns eventually have to be more localized, focusing on specific areas that are experiencing case spikes.

Metro Manila and the nearby provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal are currently under an extended, but a more "flexible" MECQ until May 14, allowing more services such as indoor dining and personal care to operate at a lesser capacity.

To be able to shift to GCQ, the Health Department said healthcare utilization rate should be below 50% and the average daily attack rate and two-week growth rate should be steadily decreasing. It noted that the number of new infections is improving. The situation in hospitals is also on a "downward trend," but Health Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said this in not yet a significant decrease.