Metro Manila mayors agree to impose uniform curfew hours starting March 15

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 11) — Metro Manila mayors will adopt uniform curfew hours, which will be from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., for two weeks beginning March 15 amid a spike in COVID-19 cases in the region.

Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman Benjamin Abalos Jr. announced this Thursday evening after he met with local chief executives of the National Capital Region to tackle protocols needed to curb the fast-rising number of infections

"Pinagkasunduan ito para hindi na malito ang tao," he said in a media briefing. "Pwede naman magkanya-kanya sila, pero kung magkakanya-kanya, mas mahirap dahil ang paggalaw sa Kalakhang Maynila ay napakabilis. Ilang minuto lang ay nasa ibang lugar ka na."

[Translation: The mayors agreed on this to prevent confusion among the public. They could opt to enforce varying curfew hours, but if they do not unify their policies, it would be more difficult because movement in Metro Manila is really fast. In just a few minutes' time, you're already in a different city.]

People of all ages will be covered by the order, but Abalos clarified essential workers who are on duty, or who will be going to or coming home from work during curfew hours will still be exempted as long as they present their IDs to authorities. Food deliveries will also be allowed, and restaurants are still permitted to operate 24/7.

Penalties for violators will depend on the different local government units.

Aside from the curfew, the MMDA chair said mayors will impose granular lockdowns in areas with clustering of COVID-19 cases. The enforcement of rules will be stricter, and testing and contact tracing efforts intensified, he added.

"These will be very stringent measures dahil hindi po biro ang nakitang mga numero ng mga mayors sa mga kasong nangyayari po ngayon, at lalo na po itong UK variant at South African variant," he said.

[Translation: These will be very stringent measures because the rising cases the mayors are seeing now are serious, especially those involving the UK and South African variants.]

From around 360 new cases recorded in the NCR daily from February 4 to 10, Abalos said the average number has climbed to over 1,400 after a month.

Health officials and OCTA members were also present in the meeting to provide a full picture of the current COVID-19 situation and guide the mayors in the policy revision. According to Abalos, the resolution to officially enforce the new directive is currently being drafted to be signed by all mayors.

Metro Manila has so far logged nearly 250,000 coronavirus cases, based on the DOH tracker. This number accounts for around 41% of the nationwide total, which has already breached 607,000.

The OCTA research group earlier warned single-day new cases in the region could hit as many as 3,000 before April, while the country could see up to 6,000 daily infections.