Gov’t finalizes rules for areas under enhanced, general community quarantine

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 30) — The government issued on Thursday the varying degrees of quarantine restrictions to be imposed in the country from May 1 to 15 to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in the Philippines.

President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the recommendations made by the COVID-19 task force on rules to be imposed in areas under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and general community quarantine (GCQ), Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.

The following high-risk areas will be placed under the strict ECQ for 15 days starting Friday:

- Metro Manila

- Central Luzon, except for Aurora

- Calabarzon

- Pangasinan

- Benguet, including Baguio City

- Iloilo, including Iloilo City

- Cebu, including Cebu City

- Bacolod City

- Davao City

All other provinces will be placed under the more relaxed GCQ.

Under the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine that will end on Friday, strict stay-at-home rules are implemented, mass transportation is suspended, and non-essential businesses remain closed to discourage people from going out except for food, banking, and medical runs.

With the final guidelines, the same rules will apply, but slight tweaks were made as to the businesses, sectors, and government work that were allowed to resume operations.

RELATED: Gov't allows more businesses to operate by May 1

Those below 21 years old, 60 years old and above, pregnant women, those with health risks — regardless if they are in a GCQ or ECQ jurisdiction — are required to stay at home except when "indispensable under the circumstances for obtaining essential goods and services or for work in permitted industries and offices."

Transition to 'new normal' in GCQ areas

Some quarantine rules will be relaxed, several non-essential businesses will be allowed to reopen, and the so-called “new normal” will be in place in all other areas in the country that are not under ECQ. The areas under GCQ have low to moderate number of COVID-19 cases.

Minimum public health standards, such as social distancing, wearing of face masks in public, mandatory checking of temperature, and regular use

of disinfectants, shall always be in place in all areas despite the lower or moderate risk of contracting the virus.

The movement of those living in GCQ areas remain limited to accessing essential goods and services and going to work in offices and industries allowed to operate.

More businesses and sectors are also allowed to operate in areas under GCQ. Malls and shopping centers will be allowed to reopen with limited operations and capacity, but theaters, gaming areas, and other leisure stores will remain closed.

Hotels in GCQ areas are only allowed to entertain long-term bookings, those who have existing accommodations for foreigners as of May 1, and those housing distressed OFWs and stranded Filipinos or foreign nationals.

Mass gatherings remain prohibited, except for essential work assemblies and religious activities, as long as physical distancing of two meters is observed.

Unlike the strict mass transportation restrictions in ECQ areas, public transportation will be allowed in GCQ areas. Land, air, and sea public transportation are allowed to reopen at a reduced capacity to ensure physical distancing between passengers of at least one meter.

The nonessential entry and exit of people to and from the ECQ zone is prohibited.

The 15-day extension of lockdown in the Philippines came after Duterte's extensive meetings with the COVID-19 task force and medical experts.

Health experts, including from the World Health Organization, have warned that hastily lifting quarantine restrictions 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 8,212 cases of COVID-19, including 1,023 recoveries and 558 fatalities.