Duterte says no MGCQ until vaccines are rolled out

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 22) — President Rodrigo Duterte will not ease quarantine classifications until COVID-19 vaccines have been rolled out, according to a statement released Monday.

"President Rodrigo Roa Duterte gave his directive to the Cabinet that the Philippines would not be placed under Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) unless there is a rollout of vaccines. The Chief Executive recognizes the importance of re-opening the economy and its impact on people's livelihoods. However, the President gives higher premium to public health and safety," said the statement from Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

Roque also said Duterte wants vaccinations to "start the soonest possible time in order to ease the community quarantine."

READ: Expert urges vaccinating 'as early as possible and as many as possible'

Earlier, Senator Bong Go quoted the President as saying, "No vaccine roll out, no MGCQ muna (for now)."

He added that the President said easing restrictions was not in the best interest of the country, and that he was confident Filipinos and economic managers would understand the situation.

This development comes after Metro Manila mayors recommended a shift to the most relaxed MGCQ in March. The announcement of quarantine status for next month is also expected to be discussed by the President in his weekly address on Wednesday, February 24.

Last week, the National Economic Development Authority urged the President to place the entire country under the lowest form of community quarantine starting March 1, citing the country's need to recover from huge economic losses.

The President has also rejected the proposal to resume face-to-face classes.

In a televised briefing also on Monday, Roque said the President told him he didn't want to endanger learners and educators given that the national vaccination drive has not yet started. The order covers classes under the Education Department's jurisdiction, namely ones held in elementary and high schools, he added.

Roque also said Duterte is open to the conduct of a pilot of face-to-face classes in August, especially in areas with low numbers of COVID-19 cases.