METRO Manila mayors are seeking to extend the general community quarantine (GCQ) in their areas until December, according to the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).
“All our mayors agreed to recommend to the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) to extend GCQ until December 31,” MMDA General Manager Jose Arturo Garcia said in Filipino during a virtual press conference on Monday, October 19.
“It is easier to adjust gradually while under GCQ instead of (placing NCR under) MGCQ immediately and then tightening the restrictions, there will be resistance. That’s hard to control,” he added.
The Metro Manila mayors also decided to impose shorter curfew hours in the capital region, going from the current 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew to 12 a.m. to 4 a.m.
“This is for our economy, for our establishments to earn more. More people are expected to dine at restaurants due to the change in the curfew hours,” said Garcia.
“All the mayors agreed to this. Of course, health protocols must be strictly observed at such establishments,” he added.
The mayors likewise decided to allow people aged 18 to 65 to leave their homes.
Malacañang, for its part, said that the GCQ extension recommended by Metro Manila mayors is subject to the approval of the IATF.
“Well, that seems to be the consensus, but I can’t preempt it because it is a collegial decision,” said presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.
“But what we are seeing right now is, while Metro Manila is under GCQ, we have a wider reopening of industries, and that is what we need because it’s part of our message to protect our lives so we can continue with our livelihood,” he added.
Roque also reiterated that downgrading to MGCQ will be possible if the number of infections go down.
“Let’s see if it is possible, if the (COVID-19) numbers go down. We make decisions monthly and October has not yet ended. While we already have initial data, our experts are still studying them to determine the classifications for the month of November,” he said.
“So let us just continue wearing face masks, washing our hands and observing physical distancing and I think anything is possible. But what is non-negotiable is we need to work regardless of the (quarantine) classification,” he added.
Christmas parties banned
The mayors in Metro Manila agreed to shorten curfew hours and allow more people to go outside, but Christmas parties will still be banned.
The mayors decided to allow churches to open at 30% capacity as the holiday season nears, but Christmas parties will not be happening, according to Interior Secretary Eduardo Año.
“Parties remain barred under GCQ. NCR mayors have agreed to keep it under GCQ and to ease restrictions only for the economy. We just need to endure for a little longer,” he said.
Meanwhile, there is still no final decision about Simbang Gabi, as of press time.
“There are recommendations to adjust the curfew during the start of ‘Simbang Gabi’ to 12 a.m. to 3 a.m. But, this is not yet final. It is too early to talk about this. We will release a guideline by the end of November,” Garcia said.
To date, there are a total of 360,775 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, with 6,690 fatalities and 310,642 recoveries.