“Dahil nga po sa napakataas na [dami ng] mga tao, mga kababayan nating nahahawa ngayon ng COVID-19 dahil na rin dito sa mga bagong variant, inaprubahan po ng ating Presidente ang rekomendasyon ng inyong IATF na ilagay muli sa Enhanced Community Quarantine or ECQ ang National Capital Region, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, at Rizal or ang tinatawag nating Greater Manila Area.”
This was the announcement made by Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque Jr. on Saturday night, March 27, as the national government’s response to the growing surge in new COVID-19 cases, which is happening not only in the Philippines but in many countries as well, because of the new variants.
The ECQ will be effective on Monday, March 29, 2021 at 12:01 AM until April 4, 2021, said Secretary Roque.
The Palace official and concurrent IATF spokesperson said that with the ECQ, movement will be limited to accessing essential goods and services or doing essential activities or work. Because of this, Secretary Roque stressed that public transportation would continue, however, with lowered capacity, which the Department of Transportation will determine and announce in the coming days.
Essential and priority construction projects, public or private, will be allowed to operate following guidelines that will be released by the Department of Public Works and Highways, said Secretary Roque.
“Ang pagtitipun-tipon or gathering ng mahigit sampung katao sa labas ng kanilang mga pamamahay ay ipinagbabawal po. Pinagbabawal nga po natin ang lahat ng mass gathering. Pati po yung pinayagan nating simba, bawal na po muli,” Sec. Roque said.
Also on gatherings, the Cabinet official added that for the conduct of weddings, baptisms, and funerals, only members of the immediate household will be allowed to attend, but not exceeding 10 people.
“Mas pinaigting din po ang oras ng curfew sa Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal at NCR mula 6pm hanggang 5am,” said Roque. He clarified though that Authorized Persons Outside of their Residences, workers, cargo vehicles and public transportation are not covered by the curfew. Also, Roque said that travel pass will no longer be required.
In addition, the Palace spokesperson asked the public to bring their quarantine pass from last year, if available, when going out. If this document is no longer available, the public just have to explain to the authorities the necessity of leaving their home or residence. Roque further said that the local government units (LGUs) won’t probably distribute quarantine passes given the limited time period of the ECQ.
Roque further said that malls will remain open only for essential establishments like groceries, pharmacies, and hardware stores. Meanwhile, restaurant operations will be limited to take-out and delivery. “Kahit ano na pong dine-in, maski al fresco, hindi na po pupwede,” Roque quipped.
“Kasama rin po sa mga hakbang na gagawin natin ang parallel implementation at pagpapaigting ng vaccination efforts sa high burden areas, kasama na po dyan ang Metro Manila, Laguna, Cavite, Rizal at Bulacan at kasama na rin po dyan ang Cebu City at ang Davao City,” said Sec. Roque.
Accordingly, Roque said that with the ECQ in place, the national government, other government agencies, and LGUs will implement steps to intensify prevention, detection, isolation, and treatment.
In terms of prevention, Sec. Roque said that the National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF), relevant government agencies, and LGUs are to implement strict compliance and adherence to the minimum public health standards (MPHS) and safety protocols.
For intensified case detection, Roque said that Dharavi-like centers will be established in communities for active case finding, testing, contact tracing, and isolating. To ensure swift detection of cases and tracing of close contacts, Roque mentioned that the IATF has approved the procurement of Rapid Antigen Test Kits approved by the Food and Drug Administration and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine for surveillance.
The NTF was also directed to set indicators and weekly targets, while LGUs must have a scorecard with clear targets set for their localities, said Roque.