A full month of General Community Quarantine (GCQ) would be completed by June 15 in the National Capital Region-plus bubble area following President Duterte’s announcement on June 1.
Recall that Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna and Cavite were placed on Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), the strictest lockdown phase, at the start of Holy Week last March 29. After two weeks, a month-long MECQ episode ensued, with restrictions calibrated a notch lower to enable resumption of vital economic activities.
To understand the scientific basis of quarantine measures adopted by the government, a visit to the Department of Health (DOH) online COVID-19 tracker would be helpful (see https://doh.gov.ph/covid19tracker).
In the latest 14-day period ending May 30, Metro Manila still accounted for the highest number of new cases at 13,512, followed by Region IV-A (Calabarzon) at 11,352, and Central Luzon at 8,810. Western Visayas and Central Visayas follow at 5,474 and 3,778 new cases, respectively.
In terms of specific provinces and cities, Cavite is on top with 3,421 new cases which is nearly equal that of the entire Central Visayas. Quezon City, the most thickly populated in NCR with 2.936 million people, follows Cavite with 3,203 new cases. Next are Laguna, Bulacan and Batangas; Laguna and Bulacan are also part of the NCR-plus bubble. Three out of four new cases in Calabarzon occur in Cavite, Laguna and Batangas. Quezon City accounts for 23.7 percent or nearly one out of four new cases in Metro Manila. One of out of four new cases in Central Luzon occurs in Bulacan.
These figures validate the correctness of creating the NCR-plus bubble as an area of focus for disease prevention and treatment.
The case for maintaining the GCQ status is established by viewing the positivity rate graph in the tracker.
July 2020, the month in which the peak level of daily tests at about 40,000 was attained due to the establishment of more than 200 testing laboratories nationwide, is a good starting point. From 11.5 percent in early August, the positivity rate was down to 5.1 percent by end-November. This doubled to 10.3 percent at the start of March 2021, then climbed to 19 percent on March 26, three days before ECQ was imposed anew. An all-time high of 25.2 percent positivity rate was recorded on April 2.
With ECQ in force followed by MECQ, positivity rate was down to 12.8 percent by May 30, but still in double digits; hence, it is justifiable that GCQ has been maintained up to June 15.
Vaccination is also on an uptrend. Government projects that total vaccine supply by end-June would reach 20 million doses. “Population protection” instead of herd immunity” is the new watchword. This could be achieved by November if 9.7 million persons are vaccinated in Metro Manila. With vaccination efforts focused on the NCR-plus bubble, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao, it would be reasonable to expect that positivity rates would dip further and revive hopes for an earlier, faster recovery.