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‘NCR Plus,’ ‘granular lockdown’ and other things you need to know about this new GCQ

By Tanya Lara Published Mar 22, 2021 3:32 pm

On March 21, the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) released Resolution No. 104, rolling out stricter GCQ measures from March 22 to April 4.

Among the new protocols are the restriction of movement of Metro Manila residents and barring of non-essential travel; and the creation of a travel bubble within NCR and neighboring provinces.

Sounds like MECQ or even ECQ? No, the government insists Metro Manila’s still in GCQ…with stricter protocols. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque says “no lockdown,” yet says you cannot travel to domestic destinations out of the NCR Plus bubble; shops are allowed to open but people are discouraged from going out of their houses.

Kind of like General Community Quarantine on steroids. Call it anything you want except Modified or Enhanced Community Quarantine.

It’s easy to get lost in all the acronyms and terms, and hard to keep up with the task forces spawning other task forces, and statements from “czars.” So here’s a guide.

What is a bubble? It’s a cluster of people outside your own home with whom you can interact during the pandemic; it can also be places. The National Task Force vs. COVID-19 spokesman Restituto Padilla calls the bubble “NCR Plus.” This means people can move between Metro Manila, Rizal, Bulacan, Cavite and Laguna—as they did before GCQ was enhanced.

“Granular lockdowns” are focused lockdowns, such as neighborhoods or barangays—not entire cities. The lockdown lengths may also differ for each area. In Pasig City, for instance, Mayor Vico Sotto put 37 areas in 19 barangay on a two-week lockdown amid increased COVID infections.

According to the IATF, with NCR Plus, only essential travel in and out of NCR, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal is allowed for people such as:

  • Essential workers, who will need to show their work ID.
  • Health and emergency frontline services personnel.
  • Government officials and government frontline personnel.
  • Duly-authorized humanitarian assistance actors.
  • Persons traveling for medical or humanitarian reasons.
  • Persons going to the airport for travel abroad.
  • Anyone crossing zones for work or business and going back home.
  • Returning overseas Filipinos and OFWs.

The Department of Tourism (DOT), which has been encouraging Filipinos to travel domestically and support tourist destinations, released a statement today, saying, “The Holy Week has always been a strategic opportunity for growth in the tourism sector. However, given the recent surge in COVID cases, our goals for the sector will have to yield to public health concerns. This will hopefully pave the way to a safer and more resilient resumption of tourism activities in the future.”

According to the new IATF resolution, public transportation will retain current capacity according to guidelines from DOTr. On public transportation, commuters are not allowed to talk or make phone calls or eat on top of the usual wearing of face masks and face shields.

No public gatherings are allowed except for weddings, baptism or funeral services, which are limited to 10 persons.  

Offices are allowed only 30% to 50% capacity. Group meals are not allowed and face-to-face meetings are highly discouraged. In restaurants, indoor dining is not allowed but outdoor dining is.

Required to remain at home at all times are people below 18 and above 65 years old; those with immunodeficiency, comorbidity and other health risks, and pregnant women. But the resolution also states that people above 65 years old are allowed outdoor exercises and non-contact sports, along with people with disability (PWD).

Temporarily suspended or closed are driving schools, movie houses, video and game arcades, libraries, museums, cultural centers, and cockfighting arenas.

This coming Holy Week—as you are grounded at home and feel like you’re back in March 2020 under ECQ, remember that it’s just GCQ version 2021. Or, more appropriately, an enhanced GCQ.