‘New normal’ status to be restored for areas with zero COVID-19 cases, says Roque

Published September 21, 2020, 4:03 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

The government is planning to implement the “new normal” classification for areas that post zero coronavirus transmission in the past month, Malacañang announced Monday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN)

According to Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Infectious Diseases (IATF) has agreed with his proposal to declare the “new normal” level for a place that will graduate from the modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) level.

The country is largely under the relaxed coronavirus lockdown as the government seeks to revitalize economic activity and strengthen health care resources to curb the spread of the disease. The community quarantine classification will expire at the end of the month unless modified by President Duterte.

“We’re still data-driven and guided by science. What I can say though is it will not be the same. Kasi ako mismo nagmungkahi at nag-agree naman ang IATF na there will be areas na may zero transmission in the past month na pupwudening ideklara under the regime of new normal (Because I proposed and the IATF agreed that there will be areas that have zero transmission in the past month that can be declared under the regime of new normal),” Roque said during a televised press briefing Monday.

“So in that sense, magkakaroon tayo ng bagong classification. Magkakaroon tayo ng new normal bukod sa MGCQ (So in that sense, we will have a new classification. We will have a ‘new normal’ after the MGCQ),” he added.

In the case of Metro Manila, Roque admitted that the capital region may still have a long way to go before it could move to the less restrictive modified general community quarantine (MGCQ). Metro Manila, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, is under general community quarantine until the end of the month.

He said the case doubling rate in Metro Manila has reached 13 to 14 days, far from the 28-day requirement for a place to shift to MGCQ. “We are now 13 to 14 days so medyo malayo pa yung tatahakin natin para magkaroon ng (so we have a long way to go to obtain) further classification ang Metro Manila,” he said.

Roque, however, said it was prudent to wait for the assessment of the data, including the healthcare capacity of Metro Manila. He noted that Metro Manila’s critical care capacity has been improving amid the allocation of more hospital beds.

“We recently completed 600 isolation rooms in the location where Nayong Pilipino. Let’s see if the new beds have been built in Quezon Institute, PGH (Philippine General Hospital), and Quirino Memorial Medical Center,” he said.

Back in June, the government task force temporarily removed “new normal” in the community quarantine phases as part of the “recalibration” of the parameters for risk classification of places. The new guidelines took effect last July 1.

Under the revised IATF classification, areas with high risk of coronavirus infection will either be placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or modified community quarantine (MECQ). Moderate risk places will be either classified as general community quarantine (GCQ) while areas with low risk of infection will downgrade to modified general community quarantine (MGCQ). The “modifiers” for community quarantine level include social, economic, and security factors, clustering of cases, health system capacity, and continued trend or increasing/decreasing new cases.

Prior to the recalibration of the quarantine classification, the government included a “post-community quarantine scenario” under the omnibus guidelines on community quarantine. Areas that have no community quarantine are supposed to be considered as being under the new normal. New normal was referred “to the emerging behaviors, situations, and minimum public health standards that will be institutionalized in common or routine practices and remain even after the pandemic while the disease is not totally eradicated through means such as widespread immunization.”

At present, the President has placed Iloilo City, Bacolod City, and Lanao del Sur under stricter MECQ until the end of the month due to the reported spike in coronavirus cases. Metro Manila, Bulacan, Batangas and Tacloban City remained under GCQ while the rest of the country is under MGCQ.