There will be no lockdown, instead, additional measures would be put in place to address the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the National Capital Region and its neighboring provinces. This was the announcement made by Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque Jr on Sunday, March 21.
“Dahil nga po sa patuloy na pagtaas ng mga kaso ng COVID-19, nagkaroon po ng emergency na pagpupulong ang inyong IATF kahapon at nagkaroon po ng mga bagong rekomendasyon na na-aprubahan na po ni Presidente,” said Secretary Roque.
First among these recommendations is that the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal shall be placed under General Community Quarantine (GCQ) starting tomorrow, March 22 until April 4, 2021. “Bagama’t ang mga probinsya pong ito kasama ang Metro Manila ay nasa ilalim ng GCQ, meron po tayong mga karagdagang mga restrictions,” said Secretary Roque.
Going in and out of Metro Manila and the said provinces will be limited to essential travel. “Magkakaroon po tayo ng parang bubble sa NCR at probinsya ng Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, at Rizal,” said Roque. Under the said restriction, Roque said that only Authorized Persons Outside of their Residences (APORs) doing essential travel will be allowed to go in and out of the said bubble.
Among those who will be allowed entry or exit into and outside Metro Manila, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, and Bulacan are the health and emergency frontline services personnel, government officials and government frontline personnel, duly authorized humanitarian assistance actors, persons travelling for medical and humanitarian reasons, persons going to the airport for travel abroad, those crossing zones for work or business and those who are going back home, and Returning Overseas Filipinos and Overseas Filipino Workers.
Sec. Roque also assured that public transportation shall remain operational, with capacities and protocols following the guidelines issued by the Department of Transportation. “Wala pong pagbabawas sa public transportation,” stressed Roque, who also reminded the riding public about the so-called “Seven Commandments for Public Transportation.” These include wearing of face shields and masks, no talking and eating, proper ventilation and frequent disinfection, no symptomatic passengers, and observing physical distancing.
Also included in the additional restrictions is the prohibition on the conduct of all mass/public gatherings, including religious gatherings. The holding of weddings, baptisms, and funeral services, on the other hand, shall be limited to 10 persons.
Despite the additional measures, Roque underscored that the current operational capacities of essential and non-essential services/industries shall be maintained, subject to adherence to safety protocols and minimum public health standards. “Highly discouraged po yung mga personal or face-to-face meetings. Pinagbabawal po yung group meals in workplaces, yung pagkain ng sama-sama. At highly encouraged po na tayo pong lahat ay magtrabaho from home, at kung kinakailangang makipag-pulong, mag virtual meetings na lang po tayo,” Roque advised.
Roque added that the private sector is enjoined to adopt similar alternative working arrangements as those observed in the executive branch of the government, such as thirty percent (30%) to fifty percent (50%) operational or on-site capacity, where applicable.
When it comes to dining, Roque said that eating in restaurants, cafes, and other similar establishments shall be limited to delivery or take-out. However, outdoor or al fresco dining shall be allowed provided that additional engineering and administrative controls are put in place such as placing of acrylic or similar dividers, limiting to two persons per table with appropriate seating arrangements, among others. Venue capacity for outdoor dine-in restaurants and cafes, as well as for personal care services shall be reduced to a maximum of fifty percent (50%).
The IATF also reiterated the previous resolution’s temporary suspension of the operations of driving schools, traditional cinemas and video and interactive game arcades, libraries, archives, museums, and cultural centers, limited social events at accredited establishments of the Department of Tourism, and limited tourist attractions except open-air tourist attractions. Similarly, cockfighting and cockpit operations, including in areas under Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ), shall be temporarily suspended.
Roque also announced that there will be a common curfew, which is between ten o’clock in the evening to five o’clock in the morning (10:00 PM to 5:00 AM). Workers, cargo vehicles, and public transportation, however, shall not be restricted by such curfew.
Meanwhile, any person below eighteen (18) years old and above sixty-five (65) years old, those with immunodeficiency, comorbidity, or other health risks, and pregnant women, shall be required to remain in their residences at all times, except when obtaining essential goods and services, or for work purposes in their respective industries and offices.
Persons above sixty-five (65) years old may likewise be allowed for outdoor non-contact sports and other forms of outdoor exercises while persons with disability (PWD) may be allowed outdoors for their therapy as well as for outdoor non-contact sports and other forms of outdoor exercises, upon presentation of prescription from their physicians or presentation of PWD ID.
Visiting persons outside their immediate family or other households is strongly discouraged while wearing of masks at home for the elderly and the vulnerable and for the rest of the household is strongly advised. ### OPS-PCOO