NCR Plus eases to GCQ with 'heightened restrictions' starting May 15

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Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal will shift to a more relaxed quarantine status beginning May 15, Presidential Harry Roque announced Thursday night. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 13) — Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal will shift to a more relaxed quarantine status beginning May 15, Presidential Harry Roque announced Thursday night.

The Greater Manila Area - also known as NCR Plus - will be under general community quarantine "with heightened restrictions" until May 31, Roque said.

These restrictions include allowing only essential travel into and out of NCR Plus. Public transportation will also be available at certain capacities set by the Transportation Department.

Indoor dining is allowed at 20% seating capacity while al fresco or outdoor dining is permitted at 50% capacity, the Palace added. Tourist attractions in the area may also open at 30% capacity.

Religious gatherings and gatherings for necrological services, wakes, inurnment, and funerals for those who died of causes other than COVID-19 in NCR Plus shall be allowed up to 10% of the venue capacity.

The new GCQ status also allows personal care services that do not require removing masks, including salons, parlors, and beauty clinics, at 30% capacity. Non-contact sports, games and scrimmages held outdoors are also allowed.

Individuals 18 to 65 years old can leave their places of residence in GCQ areas with heightened restrictions, Roque noted.

The restrictions also prohibit opening entertainment venues such as bars, concert halls, and theaters; recreational venues such as internet cafes, billiards halls, arcades; amusement parks, fairs, playgrounds, kiddie rides; indoor sports courts and venues and indoor tourist attractions; and venues for meetings, conferences, and exhibitions.

Interzonal travel from NCR Plus areas, except those conducted by authorized persons shall remain prohibited in GCQ areas with heightened restrictions, Roque added.

Other quarantine classifications

Santiago City, Zamboanga City, and the provinces of Quirino and Ifugao were placed under modified enhanced community quarantine in the same period.

The following, on the other hand, are under the regular GCQ status:

- Cordillera Administrative Region: Apayao, Baguio City, Benguet, Kalinga, Mountain Province, and Abra

- Cagayan Valley: Cagayan province, Isabela, and Nueva Vizcaya

- Calabarzon: Batangas and Quezon

- Puertro Princesa City

- Iligan City

- Davao City

- Lanao Del Sur province

The rest of the country is under the most relaxed modified general community quarantine (MGCQ).

What experts said

At least three mayors in Metro Manila earlier favored the transition to GCQ starting May 15. 

OCTA Research Fellow Guido David has said downgrading Metro Manila's quarantine classification to GCQ by mid-May could be "considered" if the region continues to see a downward trend in new infections until the end of this week. But David said the bubble setup should be retained in NCR Plus as some cities in Metro Manila have "unstable" COVID-19 trends.

NCR Plus was placed under the strictest enhanced community quarantine from March 29 to April 11 due to the overstretched hospitals caused by the sharp increase in COVID-19 cases.

During the early stages of the surge in March, reports on social media showed families of COVID-19 patients from Metro Manila have reached outlying provinces in search of medical attention. Some, meanwhile, were not able to make it inside health facilities even after waiting in line for hours to be accommodated.

The government slightly eased the restrictions in NCR Plus and placed it under modified ECQ on April 12 to allow more people to get back to work. On April 29, the government permitted limited personal care and dine-in services in MECQ areas.

The country has so far logged 1,124,724 COVID-19 cases. The death toll currently stands at 18,821 while 1,050,643 have recovered.

This is a developing story. Please refresh this page for updates.