Will Metro Manila revert to MECQ by August 1?

The government has yet to decide if Metro Manila will revert to the stricter lockdown starting next month amid the latest surge in coronavirus cases.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque denied rumors that President Duterte and Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Infectious Diseases (IATF) have approved a proposal to bring back Manila Manila to modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).

Metro Manila has remained under the more relaxed general community quarantine (GCQ) until the end of the month.

"No," Roque said in a text message Tuesday when asked if the MECQ status of National Capital Region has been approved starting August 1.

The President met with several Cabinet members, also members of the IATF, on Monday, about the government's efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

In the meeting, the President expressed reluctance to further open up the economy amid concerns it may lead to the spike in infections in the country.

Duterte explained that only science was preventing him from fully reopening the economy. He noted that some countries have experienced a "second wave" of infections after they reopened their economies despite warnings from global health authorities.

A resident rides her bicycle past armed soldiers along a street in Navotas in suburban Manila on July 16, 2020, after the local government reimposed a lockdown in the city due to increased COVID-19 infections. (Photo by Ted ALJIBE / AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)

"My countrymen, we continue to meet regularly to talk about our problem. Perhaps our number one problem today is the COVID," he said. 

"We are trying our best," he assured the nation about the government's pandemic response.

Metro Manila almost went back to MECQ status last July 16 after the President agreed with the recommendation of the University of the Philippines (UP) experts to curb the spread of the virus.

Duterte however changed his mind and kept Metro Manila under GCQ until the end of the month after Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año and Chief implementer of the government's plan against COVID Carlito Galvez Jr. convinced him about the local government units' plan to strictly implement the quarantine measures, including localized lockdowns.

Roque however has cautioned that the capital region may still revert to MECQ if the residents become complacent and the health data will not improve in the coming days. 

The case doubling rate of Metro Manila has reached eight days while critical care utilization rate has increased, according to the Palace official.

"Flat tayo – hindi  tayo umaalis sa between seven to nine, 8 to 9, 8 point something po ang ating case doubling rate. So, kapag iyon po ay bumalik sa 6,5,4 ay naku, balik po talaga tayo sa mas mahigpit (We're flat. We're stuck between seven to nine (days), our case doubling rate is around eight. So if the rate returns to six, five or four days, we will return to the stricter quarantine level)," Roque said.

To avoid being placed under stricter lockdown level, Roque appealed anew to the public to observe health measures, including staying indoors if possible, wearing masks and practicing safe distancing, to curb the transmission of the disease.

"Nasa kamay naman po natin iyan - mask, washing of hands, social distancing - kinakailangan ingatan po natin ang buhay natin para tayo po ay maghanapbuhay (It's up to us. Wearing masks, washing of hands, social distancing, we must take care of our lives so we can go to work)," he said.

The Palace earlier vowed the government will work "round the clock" to further enhance the country’s testing, tracing and treatment efforts while gradually opening the economy. 

President Duterte has placed most of the country under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), the least stringent lockdown level imposed by the government, until the end of the month.

Cebu City has been downgraded to MECQ from enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) amid improvement in their health data.

Apart from Metro Manila, areas under GCQ are Laguna, Cavite, Rizal, Lapu-Lapu City, Mandaue City, Ormoc City, Southern Leyte, Zamboanga City, Butuan City, Agusan del Norte, Basilan, Talisay City and municipalities of Minglanilla and Consolacion in Cebu province.