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GCQ Needs to be Extended, Says Metro Manila Mayors

New quarantines are due to start Oct. 1
IMAGE Jerome Ascano
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Metro Manila needs more "time to heal" and thus should be kept under GCQ or the second lowest quarantine, a think-tank advising the government's pandemnic response task force said Monday. The capital's mayors favor the same.

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The one-month long GCQ is due to end on Sept. 30. Following a meeting Sunday night, Metro Manila's mayors arrived at a "consensus" to maintain the GCQ and delay a downgrade to MGCQ, or the lowest quarantinem, Mayor Francis Zamora told CNN Philippines.

However, the extended GCQ will have mechanisms to increase the capacity of businesses to 60-70% (currently at 30% or 50%) and further ease curfews (at 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. in most areas, subject to local ordinances), Zamora said.

"These are not meant to increase the number of positive cases, but to slowly continue to open up the economy so that Metro Manila will not be hit too much by the economic crunch," Zamora said.

Why maintain GCQ for now?

The Philippines' total COVID-19 cases recently breached the 300,000-mark, though officials have said that there were signs that infections were slowing. A proposal to reduce the minimum physical distancing in public transport was shelved to keep spikes at bay.

Cases have gone down, but there are still "many" infections in surrounding provinces such as Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna and Cavite "which could change the flow, the trajectory of the pandemic," said Guido David, a fellow at UP-OCTA Research.

"We would be careful not to move to MGCQ muna because we have not yet fully healed," David told CNN Philippines. "Our recommendation is based on health considerations."

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Why does MGCQ matter?

Modified General Community Quarantine is the lowest under a four-step scale. The highest being ECQ (Enhanced Community Quarantine), Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) and General Community Quarantine (GCQ).

Restrictions get adjusted in real time, depending on the status of cases. The following businesses are allowed only under MGCQ and at 50% capacity: full body massage, tattoo and body piercing and live events and conventions.

The following businesses, allowed to operate up to 30% in GCQ areas, can increase capacity to 50%: gyms, review centers, internet cafes, drive in cinemas and pet grooming.

Malls can operate at 100% capacity, subject to trade department rules, along with car repair, car sales, job recruitment, fashion and interior design. Restaurant dine-in, barbershops and salons can increase capacity to 75% from 50%.

In tourism, some local governments impose fewer requirements on visitors from areas with MGCQ, compared to GCQ. It can also pave the way for the resumption of inter-province land travel.

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