Metro Manila to keep GCQ status until Oct. 31, Lanao del Sur to shift to MECQ

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 28) — The country's capital region and COVID-19 outbreak epicenter will undergo another period of general community quarantine starting Oct. 1 to 31, while Lanao del Sur will tighten its restrictions, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said on Monday.

Metro Manila has been under GCQ since June 1, excluding the two-week return to a stricter modified enhanced community quarantine in the first half of August. Under GCQ, public transportation is allowed to operate at a reduced capacity and most industries are permitted to open.

Since briefly tightening restrictions again in August to help relieve the strain on the healthcare system, Metro Manila has seen a downward trend in new infections, authorities and health experts have noted.

In a recent report, experts from the University of the Philippines said the capital region has shown a decline of over 50 percent in its daily cases compared to five weeks ago. However, they were quick to stress that the government should still exercise caution when easing restrictions as the country could record up to over a hundred thousand more infections in the next month.

Metro Manila mayors also support extending the GCQ for another month, citing the need to sustain the improvements in the COVID-19 situation.

“Even if we retain the GCQ status, it is possible to still slowly increase the operational capacity, meaning the number of people that can work, the number of customers that establishments can allow to enter. So, these are now being prepared," San Juan City Mayor Francis Zamora told CNN Philippines.

To date, Metro Manila has reported 162,277 infected residents, which represent 52 percent of the national case count. Around 12,000 of the region's case tally were detected over the past two weeks, according to the Health department's COVID-19 tracker.

Besides the capital region, the following areas will be placed under GCQ in October: Batangas, Tacloban City, Bacolod City, Iligan City, and Iloilo City.

Meanwhile, President Rodrigo Duterte also approved the recommendation of the the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases to place Lanao del Sur, including Marawi City, under a more stringent MECQ. Under this quarantine status, public transportation is suspended and fewer industries are allowed to operate.

The rest of the country will be under a more relaxed modified GCQ until Oct. 31.

According to the Department of Health, the IATF considered two new metrics when it decided on the new quarantine classifications.

These include the "two-week growth rate" and the "daily attack rate," which both track how fast coronavirus infections spread in a certain area. Health spokesperson and Usec. Ma. Rosario Vergeire said the old methods of tracking the case doubling time and mortality doubling time are no longer as sensitive in deciding the right quarantine level to monitor and contain infections in a specific area.

As of Sept. 28, the DOH has confirmed 307,288 COVID-19 cases in the country, which include 252,665 recoveries and 5,381 deaths.