President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday evening announced that Mega Manila will revert to the general community quarantine phase despite the continued surge of infections in the country.
In a late-night televised address on Monday, August 17, Duterte approved the recommendations of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to lift the tougher lockdown imposed in the past two weeks, from August 4 to 18.
Mega Manila, which comprises Metro Manila and the surrounding provinces of Laguna, Cavite, Rizal and Bulacan, was previously placed under the modified enhanced community version anew following a distress call from the country’s health sector. They called for a “time out” amid the continued spike in the number of infections.
Prior to this, these areas have already transitioned to GCQ, which allowed more businesses to open, since last June. This will be implemented again starting August 19 until 31.
Aside from these places, the following areas are also placed under GCQ:
- Nueva Ecija
- Iloilo City
- Cebu City
- Lapu Lapu City
- Mandaue City
- Talisay City; and the Municipalities of Minglanilla; Consolacion
Meanwhile, the rest of the country will be under the modified GCQ, which is the last quarantine phase before the “new normal.”
This announcement came after Duterte held a meeting with the IATF-EID and rumors swirled that he left the country to Singapore on the same night.
Some online users also speculated that the president might have contracted the deadly virus from Interior Secretary Eduardo Año who tested positive for COVID-19 for the second time over the weekend.
To quell these rumors, Sen. Bong Go, the former presidential aide, released a photo of the chief executive with his family in Davao City and also went live to show Duterte’s current health status.
In the Facebook live, Duterte assured the public that he’s doing fine.
Various reactions on GCQ return
The phrase “Back to GCQ” briefly trended on Twitter on Tuesday morning after the president’s announcement of Mega Manila’s return to GCQ.
Sentiments from this development include surrender to the national government’s decision and criticisms against government officials’ alleged lack of plans.
“We’re back to GCQ. The real question is, did they formulate a new plan during the MECQ that will help us fight this virus, or did we just waste another 2 weeks?” one user said.
Other Filipinos resorted to express their frustrations against the government’s failures in the form of reaction video clips.
Duterte : Manila will be back to GCQ. Also we now have 164,000 cases
— Dave Si (@DaveSi) August 17, 2020
Humor blogger and critic The Professional Heckler shared a blank white image as a satirical remark to illustrate Duterte’s supposed plans to help Filipinos who lost their jobs during the pandemic.
“IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Narito ang mga plano at inilatag na solusyon ni Pangulong Duterte kagabi sa isyu ng kawalan ng trabaho ng milyun-milyong mga Filipino,” he said.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Narito ang mga plano at inilatag na solusyon ni Pangulong Duterte kagabi sa isyu ng kawalan ng trabaho ng milyun-milyong mga Filipino. pic.twitter.com/PCgZp3qvfk
— The Professional Heckler (@hecklerforever8) August 18, 2020
The parody account of Ethel Booba called Charot! with the Twitter handle, @IamCharotism shared a video clip where a random picker wheel chooses the type of quarantine Duterte will implement in the country.
JUST IN: President Duterte places Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal back to GCQ | via Spin The Wheel. Charot! pic.twitter.com/qKVc9Vm1CT
— Charot! (@IamCharotism) August 17, 2020
Medical societies who appealed for the two-week lockdown in Mega Manila, where the majority of the COVID-19 positive cases are located, also recommended a science-based approach to the government to supposedly help “flatten” the novel coronavirus curve in the country.
Missed another warning
Contrary to the IATF-EID’s recommendations, the University of the Philippines OCTA research team suggested to extend the MECQ for another 15 days in Mega Manila and warned that lifting it after only two weeks might lead to “uncontrolled” growth of COVID-19 cases.
The research team predicted that the country would reach 210,000 COVID-19 cases by the end of August with MECQ in place.
However, with relaxed restrictions, the number of cases could reach as high as 250,000 by month-end.
“If we lift the MECQ prematurely, we will need to deal with the outbreak in the NCR entering a phase of uncontrolled and very rapid growth,” the researchers said.
“The extension is not an act against the economy. It is based on the conviction that effectively suppressing the virus is the only way we can open up society and jumpstart economic recovery,” they added.
Meanwhile, Dr. Tony Leachon, ex-consultant of the National Task Force against COVID-19, advised the public to have a “mindset” of complying with MECQ, which he also proposed early this month.
“Civil society should step up as well and have the mindset of a ‘voluntary ECQ,'” Leachon said in an interview with ANC.