Stricter GCQ for NCR

Unified curfew, quarantine passes, no reopening of gyms, Internet cafés, review centers

Malacañang said stricter COVID-19 measures will be imposed in the National Capital Region (NCR) even if it has reverted to the less restrictive General Community Quarantine (GCQ).

In an interview with CNN Philippines, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said that the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has approved on Tuesday evening the request of NCR mayors for a stricter GCQ.

A member of the police manning a checkpoint asks to see the quarantine pass of a resident in Navotas in suburban Manila on July 16, 2020. (Photo by Ted ALJIBE / AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)

"We considered the recommendations of the mayors to actually impose a stricter GCQ because when we consulted the mayors, they were in agreement that it should be GCQ but it should also be a strict type," he said.

According to Roque, there will now be a unified curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. in the entire NCR and that local government units can issue quarantine passes even under GCQ.

Roque said the government will start the aggressive implementation of localized and granular lockdowns. Quarantine passes will be a requirement in these areas.

Mass gatherings are back to a maximum of 10 persons and not 10 percent of the capacity of the venue. Religious services are also covered by this rule.

The supposed reopening of gyms, internet cafes, and review and tutorial centers are likewise suspended.

In a statement, Roque said that sports facilities, drive-in cinemas, and pet grooming services are also not allowed to operate during GCQ.

"They will remain closed," Roque said.

Restaurants and salons can open but the LGUs will determine the capacity in these establishments.

The IATF had previously approved dinein services and salon services at 30 percent capacity.

Full-body massage remains prohibited. Face shields, apart from face masks, are required in commercial places, workplaces (indoor), and public transport.

Meanwhile, Roque said the IATF has allowed pillion riding or backriding in motorcycles without the use of plastic barriers for those living in the same address.

"Back-ride is allowed provided that the passenger is an APOR (Authorized Person Outside of Residence)," he said.

"If they live in the same address, no need for barriers. If they live in different addresses, it would have to be Angkas-type barriers," he added.

Gyms, review centers, internet cafes to open Sept. 1

The reopening of gyms, review centers, testing centers, and internet cafes in the NCR and neighboring provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, and Bulacan will be on September 1.

Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said this transition is needed as these areas were reverted back to GCQ from the modified enhanced community quarantine two weeks ago.

Lopez said this transition is meant to follow the principle of gradual reopening of the economy.

The gradual reopening of the economy comes on the heels of massive job displacements in the country following more than five months of lockdown.

As the economy reopens, Lopez reminded establishments to comply with the enhanced health and safety protocols to prevent the spread of the virus.

Part of the new requirements is for large and medium-sized private companies to designate a temporary isolation area for employees needing further assessment for probable COVID infection, according to the Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) No. 2004-A by the Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Trade and Industry.

The DTI and DOLE said the latest circulars have been refined and fine tuned following several consultations with health experts, local government units, and business groups to ensure that it represents the interests of all key sectors.

On the temporary isolation facilities, the JMC said this will be used for employees under investigation due to elevated temperature, presence of flu-like symptoms, any yes answer to the Health Declaration, or exposure history to a COVID-19 case or probable case thereof.

Companies are also required to undertake PCR testing of symptomatic employees, but not for asymptomatic workers.

Dining in canteen areas have also been prohibited except if there is strict compliance to one-meter physical distancing and if there are provisions of physical barriers.

The trade chief emphasized that these provisions are meant to further lower the transmission as workers have been reported to interact with their fellow employees without face masks.

Additionally, designated smoking areas shall also be provided with individual booths.

“We understand the added burden for our employers and workers but we request for everyone’s full cooperation as we stress the need to lower the transmission in the workplace,” Lopez said.

The trade chief added: “Each one will have to practice self-discipline, self-regulation. Whatever the community quarantine level is, the virus is just always there, waiting.”

“Our constant reminder to our fellow citizens is for their increased consciousness and awareness in order to strengthen the compliance of the workplace prevention protocols,” Lopez said.

He added: “If we strictly follow these guidelines per person, per company, per city, the health numbers improve. But it is very important to keep the discipline because if we don’t, the numbers will go up again.”

“As we continue the difficult task of balancing health and the economy, we have to make sure stricter protocols are in place for the protection of our workers.”

Pillion riding

Lt. Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar, commander of the Joint Task Force COVID Shield, said the easing of restrictions on motorcycle pillion riding came after the National Task Force on COVID-19 chaired by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana approved the recommendation of the JTF COVID Shield to further ease the restrictions on married and living-in couples, family members and even people who are not related but live in the same residence.

“All they have to do is to present proof that they indeed live in the same house to avoid being apprehended and cited for violation of the motorcycle back-riding,” said Eleazar.

Eleazar said the Philippine National Police, through Director for Operations Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Luis Licup, has already released a guideline to all police commanders on the implementation of new rules on motorcycle pillion riding.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) yesterday confirmed that motorcycle barriers will no longer be needed for APOR living in the same household in areas under the general community quarantine.

DILG Undersecretary and spokesman Jonathan Malaya explained that those living in the same household should show IDs with the same address as proof to Quarantine Control Points or to police officers conducting random checks on motorists.

For riders not living in the same house, Malaya said they must use the Angkas designed barriers or the other approved barriers of the National Task Force COVID-19.

PCSO resumes gaming operations

The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) yesterday announced that its gaming operations will resume starting August 19 following the lifting of the MECQ in Metro Manila and four nearby provinces.

In a public advisory, PCSO announced that effective August 19, the selling of tickets for lotto jackpot bearing games such as Lotto 6/42, Mega Lotto 6/46, Super Lotto 6/49, Grand Lotto 6/55 and Ultra lotto 6/58, as well as the Online Keno and Sweepstakes shall resume in the NCR, Bulacan, Cavite, and Rizal, in addition to the areas under the General Community Quarantine (GCQ) and Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) areas.

The PCSO reminded that health protocols mandated by the IATF such as physical distancing and the wearing of face masks as cited in Lotto Circular No. 2020-004 should be strictly observed at ticketing outlets.

The Small Town Lottery (STL) games, however, remain suspended.