The government’s pandemic task force has agreed to downgrade the National Capital Region (NCR) and Laguna from their enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) status to the modified ECQ (MECQ) starting August 21 despite the continued rise in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases, Malacañang said.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque made the statement a day before the ECQ being implemented in the two areas lapses on Friday, August 20.
In a statement Thursday evening, Roque said the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases approved to place Metro Manila and Laguna under MECQ from August 21 to 31, 2021.
The task force likewise agreed to put the province of Bataan under MECQ beginning August 23 until the end of the month. Bataan was placed under ECQ until August 22.
According to Roque, the latest classifications were without prejudice to the strict implementation of granular lockdowns.
The Palace official said that local government units (LGUs) of the three areas were directed to improve their vaccination rates, Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Treat-Reintegrate (PDITR) strategies, and observance and compliance to Minimum Public Health Standards.
During the MECQ period, indoor and al-fresco dine-in services; and personal care services including beauty salons, beauty parlors, barbershops, and nail spas shall not be allowed in the NCR, Laguna, and Bataan.
Religious gatherings shall also remain virtual in the said areas.
In an interview with DZRH on Thursday afternoon, Roque said this was the first time the IATF had to resort to a “secret ballot” to decide on the new quarantine classification for NCR, Laguna, and Bataan.
He declined to disclose the result of the voting.
According to Roque, members of the IATF were divided if they should keep the ECQ because the number of COVID-19 cases has not dropped and the number of deaths seemed to rise.
Meanwhile, those who wanted MECQ thought a new tact was needed since ECQ was not working anymore.
“Lumalabas na parang hindi na gumagana ang ECQ sa ating mga kababayan siguro dahil pagod na pagod na sila (It appeared that the ECQ was not working anymore for the people maybe because they were tired already),” Roque said in his radio interview.
“Magugulat ka mga dalubhasa nagsabi na iyon nga po ang posisyon nila na mukhang hindi na gumagana ang ECQ for whatever reason dahil nga naman halos magdadalawang taon na tayo, siguro dapat baguhin ang taktika ‘no (You’ll be surprised that it was the experts who said ECQ was not working anymore for whatever reason because we’ve been doing this for two years and maybe its time to change tactics),” he added.
As of August 19, the country has reported 1,791,003 COVID-19 cases with 1,648,402 recoveries and 30,881 deaths. Data from the Department of Health (DOH) showed 111,720 active coronavirus cases.