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Metro Manila shifts to more relaxed quarantine

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People wearing face masks observe social distancing as they ride a train on the first day when the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions were further eased in Manila, the Philippines, on June 1, 2020. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on May 28 announced to further ease lockdown restrictions in Metro Manila from June 1 to allow more businesses and transport to reopen. (Xinhua/Rouelle Umali)

MANILA (Manila Times) – Metro Manila transitioned to general community quarantine (GCQ) on Monday, allowing the reopening of more businesses and phasing in public transport in anticipation of a surge of people going back to work after a two-month lockdown.

The GCQ will be in force until June 15.

Several other areas were placed either under GCQ or modified GCQ.

Malacanang Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said in a statement on Sunday that, as more sectors and industries begin to operate: “Let us continue cooperating with authorities in enforcing quarantine protocols.”

“Let us take care of each other by wearing face masks/face shields, maintaining physical/social distancing, staying at home if/when need be and avoiding crowded places, and the like. Only then we can heal and rise as one.”

Under the GCQ, there will be modified checkpoints and quarantine passes will not be required. Those who are below 21 years old and those 60 and above must stay home.

The return of mass transportation will be in two phases.

From June 1 to June 21 only trains and bus augmentation, taxis, transport network vehicle services, shuttle services, and point-to-point buses will be allowed, and only at reduced passenger capacity.

Provincial buses will not be allowed to enter the metropolis.

In the second phase, public utility buses, modernised public utility vehicles (PUVs), and UV Express will be allowed with limited passenger capacity.

Dine-in restaurants and fast food establishments can also reopen, but under strict restrictions such as physical distancing, No-mask-no-entry policy; regular sanitation schedule; and alternative methods of payment.

Based on Department of Trade and Industry guidelines, there will be no buffet and self-service areas for food bars, condiments and utensils.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said on Sunday the easing of restrictions would enable the government to “slowly restart” the economy which has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic.

In a separate statement, Police Lt Gen Guillermo Eleazar, chief of Joint Task Force Covid-Shield, said travel between two provinces requires authorizstion.

Workers and other individuals listed as APORs – authorised persons outside residence – do not need a travel authority but must present their company identification cards or other proof of employment.

The Philippine National Police has 4,354 quarantine control points and 115 dedicated control points for cargo vehicles nationwide, Eleazar said.

Business groups on Sunday expressed dismay that some public officials were “violating” the health protocols.

In a joint statement, the groups said while they support the “whole-of-government, whole-of-society” effort to respond and recover from the social and economic adversities caused by the pandemic, they are “greatly disappointed – even appalled and dismayed – by news reports of public officials violating with impunity the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) and DoH (Department of Health) protocols intended to protect public health.”

The statement was issued by the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, Institute for Solidarity in Asia Inc, Institute of Corporate Directors, Judicial Reform Initiative, Makati Business Club and the Management Association of the Philippines.

The business groups refused to disclose names.

“As the country rides this tide of uncertainty, we trust that our leaders at the national and local levels, will demonstrate beyond doubt, the highest standards in observing and enforcing the rule of law, and serve as role models in discipline and moral ascendancy,” they said.

The joint statement noted that from March 17 to April 17, almost 30,000 violators had been arrested; 6,616 underwent inquest while 23,016 cases were for filing.

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