Following a full Cabinet meeting, the President decided to put a "higher premium to public health and safety" and continue with the GCQ classification over Metro Manila "unless there is a rollout of vaccines," according to Presidential and IATF Spokesperson Harry Roque.
"The Chief Executive recognizes the importance of reopening the economy and its impact on people's livelihoods. However, the President gives higher premium to public health and safety," Roque said.
“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte gave his directive to the Cabinet that the Philippines would not be placed under modified general community quarantine unless there is a rollout of vaccines,” the offcial stressed.
Roque said the Chief Executive also emphasized his desire for vaccination to start the soonest possible time to ease the community quarantine.
Duterte’s decision is in line with earlier recommendations released by the Octa Research Group, a team of epidemiology experts, warning the government that it would take less than a month for new cases to reach 2,400 daily if the entire country were to shift to MGCQ on March 1, 2021.
This would result to Metro Manila hospitals becoming overwhelmed with an influx of COVID-19 patients just like what happened in August 2020.
Roque emphasized that a shift to MGCQ would now depend on when the government can begin the national COVID-19 immunization rollout through vaccines obtained through the COVAX Facility.
To recall, the IATF echoed an earlier recommendation of the National Economic and Development Authority to loosen the quarantine restrictions, especially in Metro Manila, which accounts for 40 percent of the country's economy.
A majority of Metro Manila mayors also shared the sentiments of NEDA's economic managers to loosen lockdown restrictions in March in order to raise further open up the economy.
Under MGCQ, all public and private offices can resume operations at full capacity, with special telework arrangements for senior citizens, pregnant women, and people with comorbidities.
All types of establishments are also allowed, however, certain businesses related to leisure and entertainment, such as cinemas and concerts, are limited to at most half capacity. (PIA NCR)
By Susan G. De Leon