Metro Manila, Cebu City placed under GCQ

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 31) — Despite continued rise in COVID-19 cases in the region, Metro Manila will remain under general community quarantine from August 1 to 15.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Friday said Metro Manila was allowed to stay in GCQ under several "conditionalities." He said local government units need to declare strict localized lockdown in areas with 80 percent increase in recorded cases. During these lockdowns, there will be "massive targeted testing and intensified tracing."

Local officials were also tasked to submit concrete plans on how they will enforce minimum health standards, which now includes wearing of face shields. 

The decision by President Rodrigo Duterte came amid the government’s earlier warning of a possible return to a stricter modified enhanced community quarantine in the National Capital Region, should the country’s COVID-19 cases reach 85,000.

The national case tally currently stands at 89,374.

He earlier mentioned that while the numbers are soaring, they are also looking into other factors in deciding on the quarantine status, such as the case doubling rate and health care capacity.

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.

He did note that critical care capacity of hospitals is at "critical" level. However, he added that this was due to a limited number of beds allotted for COVID-19 patients.

Metro Manila mayors recommended keeping the NCR under GCQ, but said that they would like to retain the power to place select areas experiencing a surge in cases under localized lockdowns.

The move to ease restrictions also came after the region logged some 10,300 more infected residents over the past two weeks, by date of onset of illness, according to data from the Department of Health (DOH). Malacañang earlier warned of imposing stricter rules if the numbers continue to climb.

The Department of Health also said the region’s COVID-19 bed occupancy rate has hit the "danger zone level" as of July 26, with 82.2 percent of beds already occupied by patients. A number of major hospitals in the capital region, meanwhile, reported they have reached full capacity for infected patients.

READ: Gov’t mulls tapping regional hospitals for COVID-19 patients as bed capacity warning hounds Metro Manila

Researchers from the University of the Philippines earlier urged Duterte to place Metro Manila under tighter restrictions, but the President opted to keep the more relaxed quarantine status to help revive the economy.

Meanwhile, Cebu City will be easing into a more relaxed GCQ, the government said.

In June, Duterte appointed Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu as the COVID-19 response chief for Visayas, who brought in hundreds of security troops to enforce the strict stay-at-home measures. The DOH also ordered the deployment of doctors to Cebu City to help aid its fight against the contagion.

Cimatu recommended relaxing the city’s quarantine status to GCQ after weeks of tight lockdowns.

The President also approved IATF’s recommendation to place the following areas under GCQ: Bulacan, Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal for Luzon; Lapu-Lapu City, Mandaue City, Talisay City, Minglanilla and Consolacion for the Visayas; and Zamboanga City for Mindanao.

Other parts of the country will be under a modified GCQ. 

To date, the coronavirus disease has hit more than 89,000 people in the country. Of this number, some 22,000 are active cases or currently ill patients, after around 65,000 recovered and nearly 2,000 died.