By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Metro Manila will soon have more relaxed quarantine measures after President Duterte approved the region’s transition from the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) to general community quarantine (GCQ).
After being locked down for more than two months, how is the GCQ different from Metro Manila’s previous quarantine status?
Despite the relaxed protocols, President Duterte reminded the public that the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is still in the country and that everyone should still stay home and wear face masks when going out.
The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases had previously released guidelines on the implementation of all quarantine levels. The following are what differentiate the GCQ from the MECQ.
Under the MECQ, everyone is required to stay at home except for those who are allowed to go to work and to buy essential goods and services.
The elderly and the youth, or those 60 years old and above and below 21 years old, who are considered as the vulnerable and the transmitters, respectively, must still stay at home under the GCQ.
Also required to stay at home under the GCQ are those with immunodeficiency, co-morbidities, other health risks, pregnant women, and those who are living with them. However, they may go out when indispensable under circumstances for obtaining essential goods and services, or for work in permitted industries and offices.
Limited outdoor exercises like outdoor walking, jogging, running, or biking are allowed under the MECQ as long as safety protocols like physical distancing and the wearing of face masks are observed.
Aside from outdoor exercises, noncontact outdoor sports like golf, swimming, tennis, badminton, equestrian, and skateboarding, among others, are allowed. Minimum public health standards such as wearing face masks and physical distancing are to be strictly followed.
Participants of the said activities are likewise not allowed to share equipment. Operations of relevant clubhouses or similar establishments, meanwhile, shall be limited to basic operations.
Unessential public gatherings are still prohibited in both quarantine levels. The IATF is yet to decide whether to allow or not the resumption of religious gatherings under the GCQ.
No public transportation is allowed under the MECQ.
Under the GCQ, public transportation, except jeepneys, is allowed but not in full capacity in order to implement strict safe distancing. Traveling from GCQ to GCQ areas is also allowed.
Trains will likewise resume operations but at limited capacity. The Light and Metro rail transit systems (LRT and MRT) will only be at 10 to 12 percent while the Philippine National Railways (PNR) will be at 35 percent.
The ride-hailing service Grab may also return under the GCQ.
Industries and sectors allowed or partially allowed to operate under the ECQ and MECQ are now allowed to resume operation at full capacity under the GCQ.
Hotels, however, are still limited to existing long-term bookings or bookings made as of May 1 in Luzon.
The following industries allowed to operate at 50 percent of their capacity under the MECQ are now allowed to fully operate under the GCQ but must still follow safety protocols: Public and private constructions; funeral and embalming services; veterinary clinics; security and investigation activities; financial services; legal and accounting; management consultancy activities; architecture and engineering activities; technical testing and analysis; scientific and research development; advertising and market research; computer programming and information service activities; film and TV production; publishing and printing activities; photography, fashion, industrial, graphic, and interior design; wholesale and retail trade of motor vehicles; and repair of motor vehicles, motorcycles, and bicycles.
Malls and other establishments
Previously allowed to operate at 50 percent under the MECQ, malls and commercial centers are now fully allowed under the GCQ but for nonleisure shops and services only such as hardware stores; clothing and accessories; mall-based government frontline services; hardware stores; bookstores and school and office supplies stores;baby care supplies stores; pet food and pet care supplies; IT, communications, and electronic equipment; flower, jewelry, novelty, antique, perfume shops; toy store (with playgrounds and amusement area closed); and dining and restaurants which are still limited to delivery and take-out services.
Still not allowed
The following are still not allowed under the GCQ: Gyms/fitness studios and sports facilities; entertainment industries (e.g., cinemas, theaters, karaoke bars, etc.); kid amusement industries (e.g., playrooms, rides); libraries, archives, museums, and cultural centers; tourist destinations (e.g., water parks, beaches, resorts); travel agencies, tour operators, reservation service and related activities; and personal care services (e.g., massage parlors, sauna, facial care, waxing, etc.).
Barbershops and salons, on the other hand, are subject to review by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
Balut, taho, and other street vendors may resume operations under GCQ.