Authorities recommend placing Metro Manila, Cebu City under GCQ by August 1

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 30) Metro Manila and Cebu City should to be placed under general community quarantine for the first two weeks of August, authorities on the ground recommended ahead of President Rodrigo Duterte's decision.

Danny Lim, chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, said that mayors collectively suggested that the National Capital Region retain its current quarantine status for a third month.

The mayors, however, would like to retain the power to place select areas experiencing a surge of cases under localized lockdowns to curb community transmission.

Local implementer and Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said separately that Cebu City is ready to ease to GCQ status, weeks after strict stay-at-home rules were enforced there amid a spike in infections, especially involving severe symptoms. The city has been under the transition phase of modified enhanced community quarantine for the last two weeks since mid-July.

In a Thursday afternoon briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the situation for Metro Manila will not be "business as usual" as they ask local government units and even private firms to take on a bigger role in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

He then hinted slim chances of the region returning to the stricter modified ECQ, agreeing with the remarks of Senator Sonny Angara that Metro Manila's economy — which accounts for about half the national output — will likely collapse if it reverts to lockdowns.

"Well, sabihin na lang po natin hindi nagkakalayo ang pananaw ng IATF at ni Sen. Angara [Well, let's just say that the IATF's appreciation is not that different from Senator Sonny Angara]," Roque added.

Earlier, Roque said the situation in Metro Manila has "improved" with a longer case doubling rate. It now takes about 8.9 days for the number of infections to double, which he said fell under GCQ. However, he did note that critical care capacity of hospitals is at a "critical" level, but said this was because of a limited number of beds allotted for COVID-19 patients.

RELATED: Gyms, internet cafes allowed to partially reopen in GCQ areas by August

Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega, the treatment czar in the COVID-19 response, said Thursday afternoon that hospitals are not meeting the 30 percent allocation for total beds to COVID-19 patients, noting that the average is just at 16 percent.

He stressed that health facilities should improve this, noting that capacity should be expanded to 50 percent of total beds when an area or region sees a surge in infections.

Roque added that healthcare facilities have been told to allot more beds, while new quarantine centers will be opened. Several hospital authorities, however, have said that the problem is more of lack of manpower than beds.

Roque said Wednesday that Metro Manila will be a "living experiment," as he hopes that the rate of infections will slow down just like how it happened in Cebu City.

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