Duterte cautious on shift to MGCQ, won’t rush steps

President Rodrigo Duterte is taking a “step-by-step” approach to the planned nationwide shift to the least restrictive modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said on Tuesday.

This, after Duterte rejected the proposal to place the entire country under MGCQ until the government starts the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.

“For him (Duterte), it’s a step-by-step approach. We have to take this step first before we go to the next step,” Nograles said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Nograles said it was difficult for Duterte to turn down the proposed shift to MGCQ.

However, Duterte wants to make sure that people’s health and safety are not be compromised, Nograles said.

The initial plan of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), was to recommend the most relaxed MGCQ for the entire country, including regions such as Metro Manila where the number of COVID-19 cases remains high.

Nograles said he and his fellow Cabinet officials “100 percent” support Duterte’s latest decision.

Nograles said the IATF would also assess what areas in the country should be placed under the stricter general community quarantine (GCQ) or MGCQ for the month of March.

He added that the task force would continue to have “more active” partnership with local officials, especially those who are in areas that will be put under GCQ next month.

The government was supposed to start its free vaccination program this month. However, there was a delay in the delivery of Covid-19 vaccines due to indemnification requirements.

Nograles said the IATF-EID would stick to the “month-to-month” assessment even if the government starts its mass immunization drive.

Metro Manila, Cordillera Administrative Region, Batangas, Tacloban City, Iligan City, Davao del Norte, Davao City, and Lanao del Sur were placed under GCQ in February.

The rest of the country has stayed under an MGCQ this month.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), which proposed the nationwide application of the MGCQ, now said it supports the President’s decision to reject its recommendation.

“NEDA supports the recent decision of the President not to shift to MGCQ,” acting NEDA chief Karl Kendrick Chua said in a statement.

“The whole of government will work hard, in cooperation with various sectors, to roll out the vaccine so that we can further open the economy,” he added.

NEDA previously proposed placing the entire Philippines under the MGCQ starting March 1 supposedly to balance the country’s response to stop the spread of COVID-19 and the need of Filipinos to start earning and spending.

It also recommended increasing the capacity allowed in public transport from 50 percent of capacity to 75 percent and expanding the age groups allowed to leave their homes, from 15 to 65 at present, to five to 70.

It also recommended the pilot-testing of face-to-face classes, a plan Duterte also rejected.

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