Metro Manila retains GCQ status, Iligan City to be placed under stricter MECQ starting Sept. 1

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 31) — President Rodrigo Duterte announced on Monday that Metro Manila will retain its general community quarantine status, while Iligan City will tighten its lockdown restrictions from Sept. 1 to 30.

Duterte said the country’s capital will remain under GCQ as the government continues to carry out its enhanced strategies to help arrest the spread of the coronavirus.

Metro Manila so far has tallied over 122,000 cases of the viral disease or 55 percent of the national case count, based on the Department of Health data.

Along with four provinces, it eased back to GCQ on Aug. 19, after having been placed under a stricter lockdown status.

Over the past two weeks under relaxed rules, around 18,000 more Metro Manila residents have been infected with COVID-19, the DOH reported.

The region's daily figures consistently pushed it to the top of the list of areas nationwide with the most number of new cases.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier said reverting to a higher quarantine status is no longer a viable option as doing so would "irreversibly injure, if not damage the economy beyond repair." Instead of tightening protocols again, Duque underlined the importance of more stringent implementation of contact tracing and other measures to prevent further viral transmission.

Even so, the government has decided to put Iligan City in Northern Mindanao under a stricter modified enhanced community quarantine after seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Meanwhile, Duterte also approved the Inter-Agency Task Force's recommendation to place the following areas under GCQ: Bulacan, Batangas, Tacloban City, and Bacolod City.

The rest of the country will be under a modified GCQ until September 30.

To date, the national COVID-19 tally has breached 220,000, of which nearly 60,000 are active cases or currently ill patients.

The University of the Philippines OCTA Research team projected that cases could surge to 375,000 by the end of September, while the virus's reproductive rate is seen to further decline. For Metro Manila alone, it said total infections could range from 180,000 to 215,000 by end-September. 

The researchers also predicted that the country may be able to flatten the coronavirus curve by next month, but stressed that a downward trend must be sustained for several months to manage the pandemic.

Dr. Guido David, a member of the research group, reiterated that the flattening of the curve does not mean there will no longer be any active COVID-19 cases in the country. He said it only means that there’s already a downward trend in infections, and that the country is able to slow transmission rate.

READ: Flattened curve must be sustained for ‘several months’ to manage coronavirus pandemic - UP expert