Most MM mayors support shift to MGCQ

Nine Metro Manila mayors voted Wednesday night in favor of putting the National Capital Region (NCR) under a modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) in March, one more than the eight who wanted to retain the stricter GCQ.The World Health Organization, however, cautioned the country against an overall easing of quarantine restrictions, saying this might result in an upsurge in cases given the delay in the vaccination rollout and the presence of new COVID variants.

“If we now go for large-scale relaxation of measures, given the current existing situation and the circulation of variants and the fact it will still be many months before a large proportion of Filipinos are vaccinated, we may witness a situation where there’ll be an upsurge of cases and the overwhelming of the health (system). A careful balancing of the situation is necessary,” WHO Country Representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe said.

“It has not flattened yet and so we still need to be conscious of the fact that there is relatively high level of transmission now there in the community and that the situation is also complicated by the presence of new variants so I believe firmly we still need to maintain these restrictions. That does not mean we cannot loosen up key areas so the economy will benefit but that has to be done in a very targeted manner,” he added.

Meanwhile, in an interview with radio dzBB, Navotas Mayor Toby Tiangco said the vote on the shift to MGCQ will be the official position of the Metro Manila Council that will be submitted to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).

The mayors took a vote after officials from the Department of Trade and Industry and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) discussed the importance of loosening quarantine restrictions as a way to revive the economy, which has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Benjamin Abalos Jr. said the NCR mayors are ready to implement any community quarantine status, whether it is general community quarantine or MGCQ.

“But for me, if you ask me, I want it slowly, open up slowly. Let’s see if it’s okay. What is three weeks, what is one month, and then you open it up again,” Abalos said.

“If you open the economy, we also need to factor in safeguards. It is a big challenge for the government to help the economy going while keeping the people safe and healthy. The Metro Manila mayors play a big role in this issue. We cannot allow the government’s gains in controlling the spread of the virus be put to waste. We must balance the economy and health for everyone’s safety,” he added.

The MMDA chief said the mayors are also willing to allow persons aged 15 to 65 to go out of their homes in Metro Manila.

On Monday, NEDA chief Karl Kendrick Chua proposed placing the entire country under MGCQ starting March 1 to enable Filipinos to start earning and spending.

NEDA also suggested that public transport capacity be raised from 50 percent to 75 percent and allowing more provincial buses to operate.

It also suggested expanding the age groups allowed to leave their homes, from the current 15 to 65 to 5 to 70, and resuming pilot testing of face-to-face classes.

Calls to ease quarantine restrictions came as the Department of Health reported 1,744 new infections, bringing total COVID-19 cases to 555,163.

The DOH reported 96 new fatalities, bringing the death toll to 11,673 since the pandemic started. It said 412 more patients recovered, bringing to 512,375 the number of patients who recovered from the disease.

This left 31,115 active cases undergoing treatment or quarantine, of which 85.6 percent are mild, 8.6 percent are asymptomatic, 2.5 percent are severe, and 2.5 percent are in critical condition, the DOH said.

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