Enhanced community quarantine extended in Metro Manila, several provinces

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 24) — President Rodrigo Duterte is extending the enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, and "all other high risk" provinces in Luzon until May 15.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, in a taped briefing that aired on Friday, said the following provinces are considered high-risk and will be placed under extended enhanced community quarantine: Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecijia, Pampanga, Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro, Albay, and Catanduanes.

The initial enhanced community quarantine was due to end on April 30.

Roque added the inclusion of Benguet, Pangasinan, Tarlac, and Zambales under enhanced lockdown are up for reevaluation by April 30. Meanwhile, the situation in Antique, Iloilo, Aklan, Capiz, Cebu, Cebu City, Davao del Norte, and Davao City will be rechecked.

Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua said authorities will re-evaluate the situation in these provinces, as the data they got from the Department of Health was as of two days ago. He said the case count from the local governments concerned showed better numbers, which may trigger a downgrade to general community quarantine which would lift strict stay-at-home rules.

Roque said all low-risk and moderate-risk areas will be under "general community quarantine" or GCQ until mid-May.

"If there is no deterioration, GCQ will be relaxed leading to normalization," the spokesperson said.

​Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said additional police and military troops will also be deployed to monitor checkpoints and points of convergence like public markets to ensure that social distancing rules are observed.

Duterte approved all the recommendations presented to him by the government's coronavirus task force on Thursday, Roque said.

Based on 2018 national data, Metro Manila contributes the largest share of the country’s economy at 36 percent, followed by the Calabarzon region with 17 percent, and Central Luzon just north of Manila with a 10 percent share of the national output of goods and services.

Duterte’s decision on the fate of the six-week long quarantine in Luzon, home to 57 million people and large industries, came after a series of meetings with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

COVID-19 response chief implementor Carlito Galvez, Jr. said during a separate briefing that authorities factored in how fast the number of infections double in an area, as well as the capacity of hospitals to handle a possible surge in patients who may need critical care if restrictions are relaxed.

Department of Health Undersecretary and Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said that intensive care units in Metro Manila hospitals are "near maximum level," thus the high risk assessment and the sustained ECQ. "We cannot build new hospitals or structures, but we will free up more space for COVID-19 patients," she said, noting that dedicated wards for the disease are being set up.

The task force, which provided the President with decision-making tools on whether to extend or relax strict stay-at-home rules, earlier recommended to classify Luzon into low, moderate and high-risk areas for infections. This came after a consensus emerged in an earlier meeting with health experts that the stringent quarantine does not have to cover the entire island group.

​Using these categories, provinces and cities are then shaded green as low-risk areas, given few or no infections; yellow or orange for varying degrees under moderate risk — where they are either close to ending or are beyond outbreak mode; and red for high-risk areas where the virus easily spreads.

Duterte’s announcement came days after the Health Department reported that the time it takes for COVID-19 cases to double has slowed down from three days in March to five days this week.

Health experts, including the World Health Organization, have warned that hastily lifting quarantine restrictions — which include the suspension of mass transportation and the imposition of stay-at-home orders — may lead to a second wave of infections, just like in Singapore, which initially arrested the spread of COVID-19, but later faced a resurgence of the viral disease.

This is the second extension of the enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila. Duterte originally scheduled the Luzon-wide quarantine to last only until midnight of April 12, but eventually decided to extend it until April 30, and as of today, until May 15.

To date, the country has recorded 7,192 cases of COVID-19, including 762 recoveries and 477 fatalities. ​Galvez said the goal for the next weeks is to ramp up testing, with a bold goal to test all persons under investigation and persons under monitoring — which have since been reclassified as probable or suspected patients.