President Duterte has approved the recommendation to place the National Capital Region-plus (NCR-plus) bubble under the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) until the end of the month.
In a virtual presser, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque announced that aside from the NCR-plus bubble area, the city of Santiago in Quirino and the province of Abra will be under the MECQ until April 30, 2021.
The following areas are under the general community quarantine (GCQ):
· Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR)
· Nueva Vizcaya
· Quezon Province
· Tacloban City
· Iligan City
· Davao City
· Lanao del Sur
Meanwhile, the rest of the Philippines will be under the modified GCQ (MGCQ), the least strict quarantine classification.
The NCR-plus bubble area was under the ECQ for two weeks due to the alarming spike in COVID-19 cases in the country.
In his virtual presser, Roque said the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases recommended easing the quarantine restriction of the NCR-plus bubble due to the commitment of public and private hospitals to increase coronavirus (COVID-19)-dedicated beds following the directive of President Duterte to PhilHealth to expedite the payment of COVID-19 claims.
The public and private hospitals in the NCR-plus bubble committed to adding 164 more ICU or critical beds and 1,157 more regular beds for moderate and severe cases.
Other additional capacities which are ready are:
· 110 beds at Quezon Institute for moderate and severe cases
· 960 beds at National Center for Mental Health for moderate cases
· 300 beds at Manila Times College in Subic for mild and asymptomatic cases
· 165 beds at New Clark City in Tarlac for mild and asymptomatic cases
· 200 beds at Eva Macapagal Terminal in Manila for mild and asymptomatic cases
· 100 beds at Orion Bataan Pork Terminal for mild and symptomatic cases
During the two-week ECQ period, the country was able to add 3,156 beds in the NCR-plus bubble:
· 164 COVID ICU beds for critical cases
· 2,227 COVID regular beds for moderate and severe cases
· 765 COVID isolation beds for mild and asymptomatic cases
The healthcare utilization rate in the NCR-plus bubble as of April 11 are:
· COVID ICU beds: 74.34 percent
· COVID ward beds: 46.04 percent
· COVID isolation beds: 59.56 percent
In a separate statement, Roque said dedicated COVID-19 beds in isolation, quarantine, and health facilities in the NCR-plus bubble must be increased through the joint efforts of the Department of Education (DepEd), the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and the Department of Health (DOH).
There must also be an adequate number of COVID-19 dedicated beds, complementary health human resources, and well-coordinated triage and referral systems in place at the local government units (LGUs), isolation and quarantine facilities, and health facilities.
Roque said hospitals must be decongested through the partnership of hospitals with temporary treatment and monitoring facilities or step-down facilities for mild or moderate care or home care, provided there is proof of capacity to do adequate quarantine or isolation.
In addition, LGUs in the NCR-plus bubble are enjoined to set up their respective local telehealth triaging systems equipped with sufficient medical personnel available to provide immediate medical and patient referral advice.
PhilHealth must ensure the continued responsive and timely payment of reimbursement claims for COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Roque said another measure that must be implemented in the NCR-plus bubble is enjoining the LGUs to prioritize the generation of demand for vaccination to those with the highest risk for severe disease and death, particularly Priority Groups A2 (senior citizens) and A3 (persons with comorbidities) of the National Deployment and Vaccination Plan for COVID-19.
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) are directed to ascertain the number of employees who may undertake alternative work arrangements and their impact on the maximum carrying capacity of the subject area.
What’s the difference?
President Duterte last placed the NCR under MECQ for 15 days in August last year to give healthcare workers a timeout.
In his presser on Sunday, Roque said that the difference between ECQ and MECQ will be discussed during his regular Monday press briefing.
As a reminder, here are the original guidelines under MECQ and how it is different–or similar–to ECQ:
· There is no difference when it comes to the people allowed to go outside.
· Limited outdoor exercise is allowed
· Public gatherings are prohibited except for government services and humanitarian activities
· Public transportation is allowed at a limited capacity
Based on the original MECQ guidelines, the following industries allowed to operate at maximum operational capacity but must still follow safety protocols:
· Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries
· Manufacturing of essential goods
· Essential Retail (e.g., groceries, markets, convenience stores, drug stores)
· Food preparation insofar as take-out and delivery services
· Water-Refilling Stations
· Laundry Services (including self-service)
· Public and private hospitals
· Logistics Service Providers (Cargo Handling, Warehousing, Trucking, Freight Forwarding, and Shipping Line)
· Delivery and courier services, whether in-house or outsourced transporting food, medicine, or other essential maximum operating hours allowed goods
· Water supply and sanitation services and facilities
· Repair and maintenance of machinery and equipment
· Telecommunications companies
· Energy and power companies
· Gasoline Stations
· Airline and aircraft maintenance, pilots and crew, and employees of aviation schools for purposes of the pilot’s recurrent training
· Public and private construction projects that are essential
· Manufacturing companies and suppliers of equipment or products necessary to perform construction works, such as cement and steel
· BPO and Export-oriented companies, including mining and quarrying
· Printing presses authorized by the BIR or other appropriate agencies to print official receipts and other accountable forms
· Media Establishments
· Mining and Quarrying
· Electronic commerce companies
· Postal, courier, and delivery services for articles
· Housing service activities, such as but not limited to plumbing, roofing, and electrical works
· Veterinary Activities
· Security and Investigation Activities
· Funeral and embalming services
· Banks, money transfer services, pawnshops, microfinance institutions, and credit cooperatives
· Capital Markets
· Rental and Leasing Activities, other than real estate
· Employment Activities that involve recruitment and placement for permitted sectors
Allowed to operate at 50 percent on-site capacity are:
· Other Manufacturing – Beverages, Electrical Machinery, Wood products,
· Furniture, Non-metallic product, textiles, tobacco, paper, rubber
· Real estate activities (including parking space leasing companies)
· Office Administrative and Office Support
· Other financial services (e.g., money exchange, insurance, reinsurance, lending, and non-compulsory pension funding)
· Legal and Accounting
· Management Consultancy Activities
· Architecture, Engineering Activities; Technical Testing Analysis
· Scientific and Research Development
· Computer programming
· Publishing and printing services
· Film, music, and TV production
· Recruitment and placement agencies for overseas employment
· Other services such as photography services; fashion, ID
· Wholesale & retail trade of motor vehicles, motorcycles, bikes
· Repair of motor vehicles, motorcycles, and bicycles
· Dining/Restaurants but for delivery and take out only
· Malls and commercial centers (non-leisure only)