Metro Manila, Bulacan ease to GCQ with 'some restrictions' by June 16

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 14) – Quarantine protocols in Metro Manila and Bulacan will ease to general community quarantine (GCQ) with "some restrictions" starting June 16, President Rodrigo Duterte announced on Monday.

The quarantine level in the two areas will last until June 30.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the only difference in the GCQ with "some restrictions" classification in Metro Manila and Bulacan is that gyms and indoor dining are allowed to operate at up to 30% of the seating capacity. He said it may be increased to 40% once they obtain a safety seal from the Trade Department.

Meanwhile, the provinces of Rizal, Laguna, and Cavite will remain under general community quarantine with "heightened restrictions" for the remainder of June.

The previous guidelines for areas under "GCQ with restrictions" limit seating capacity in indoor and outdoor dining establishments at 30% and 50%, respectively.

Religious activities, including weddings and wakes, are restricted to 30% capacity, with the local government given the option to increase the allowed level to 50%.

Personal care services not requiring removal of face masks are allowed at 30% capacity, with an additional 10% if the shop obtains a safety seal.

The Department of Health earlier warned against easing restrictions this early despite the continuously improving COVID-19 situation in the National Capital Region.

Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the infections are still going up and healthcare capacity is dwindling outside NCR, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, and Bulacan, and the area can easily go back to experiencing surges if restrictions are lifted hastily.

Meanwhile, Metro Manila will impose shorter curfew hours, from 12 m.n. to 4 a.m. starting Tuesday.

Here are the other areas in the country under GCQ until June 30:

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

- Region 2: Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino

- Region 4-A (CALABARZON): Batangas, Quezon

- Region 10: Iligan City

- Region 11: Davao del Norte

- Region 12 (SOCCSKSARGEN): General Santos City, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, Cotabato, South Cotabato

- BARMM: Lanao del Sur, Cotabato City

Establishments that are allowed to operate in GCQ areas for up to 50% of its capacity are indoor sports venues, indoor and outdoor tourist attractions, museums, libraries, archives, galleries, personal care services (beauty salons, barber shops, nail spas), and venues for meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions or MICE.

Meanwhile, starting June 16, Roque said the government would have placed the most number of areas under the stricter modified enhanced community quarantine status since the start of lockdowns in the country.

RELATED: PH govt. records largest number of areas placed under MECQ

All other areas in the country are under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) status until June 30.

As some restrictions ease, Trade Undersecretary Ireneo Vizmonte said 200,000 to 300,000 Filipinos are now waiting to return to work.

"Coming from the regional ECQ [enhanced community quarantine] more than two months ago when we saw around 1.5 million jobs that were temporarily stopped or lost, I think the remaining around 200,000 to 300,000 are still waiting to return to their jobs," he told CNN Philippines' The Final Word.

During the implementation of ECQ in late May to April, around 1.5 million jobs were lost as a number of industries were forced to temporarily stop operations or limit capacity due to rising infections. Since then, the government has been slowly easing restrictions to ensure the economy is kept running without sacrificing health.

The country has a total of 1,327,431 COVID-19 infections with 58,063 active cases as of Tuesday. The death toll climbed to 22,963 while the number of recoveries rose to 1,246,405.