NCR Plus—Metro Manila and surrounding provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal—will shift to a more relaxed general community quarantine (GCQ) “with heightened restrictions” from May 15 until the end of the month, Malacañang announced Thursday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement that easing the quarantine classification in the NCR Plus bubble was approved by the Palace upon the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF).
Under GCQ with heightened restrictions, only essential travel into and out of the bubble is allowed, while public transportation will remain operational at certain capacities and protocols set by the Department of Transportation.
Indoor dine-in services will be allowed up to 20% capacity, while 50% capacity is allowed for al fresco dining.
Roque noted that within the NCR Plus, religious gatherings and gatherings for necrological services, wakes, inurnment and funerals for those who died of causes other than COVID-19 will be allowed up to 10% of the venue capacity.
Outdoor tourist attractions in the NCR Plus may also be opened at 30% but with “strict adherence to minimum public health standards.”
Also allowed under the GCQ areas with heightened restrictions are non-contact sports and games that are held outdoors. Meanwhile, personal care services like salons and beauty clinics are allowed to operate at 30-percent capacity for services that do not require mask removal.
Those who are allowed to leave their residence under the new quarantine classification are individuals from ages 18 to 65 years old.
Roque said that also not allowed to operate within the GCQ areas with heightened restrictions include entertainment venues (bars, concert halls, theaters, etc.), recreation venues (internet cafes, billiards halls, arcades, etc.), amusement parks, fairs, playgrounds, indoor sports courts, indoor venues and tourist attractions, and venues for meetings, conferences and exhibitions.
Interzonal travel from NCR Plus areas, except for authorized persons outside residence (APORs), will also remain prohibited under GCQ with heightened restrictions.
The new quarantine classification came days after the Department of Health confirmed the country has detected its first two cases of the COVID-19 variant first detected in India, also known as the B.1.617. The World Health Organization has classified the B.1.617 as a variant of global concern after preliminary studies indicated that it spreads more easily. Other variants of global concern include those that originated in the UK, South Africa and Brazil, cases of which were also reported in the Philippines.
As of Wednesday, the Philippines logged 6,385 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total cases in the country to 1,124,724. Total reported deaths are now at 18,821 and recoveries at 1,050,643.
Banner and thumbnail images by Michael Varcas/The Philippine STAR