TRADE Secretary Ramon Lopez yesterday said he will recommend the lifting of curfews to Metro Manila local government units once the National Capital Region (NCR) is placed under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) by October 1.
Lopez said lifting the current 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew will allow people to go to establishments even at night, which is expected to encourage more businesses to operate at longer hours and subsequently bring back jobs to those who have been displaced by the different lockdown levels imposed by the government to control the transmission of the new coronavirus.
“We would like to suggest that (lifting of curfew) so that these establishments can operate closer to normal, or the new normal,” Lopez said, referring to food establishments and drugstores.
The DTI chief, however, said customers and establishments should continue to strictly adhere to health protocols.
Lopez also said once Metro Manila shifts to MGCQ, entertainment facilities like cinemas will already be allowed to operate but at only at 50 percent capacity.
Lopez also said that as long as their spaces can accommodate the required physical distancing and table top dividers are put up, restaurants may already be allowed to operate at more than 50 percent capacity.
In a text message, Lopez added that other activities that will also be allowed under MGCQ include local tourism, tour operations and related activities, as well as live events.
Under MGCQ, Lopez said government will be able to introduce enhancements in other sectors previously opened. He did not elaborate.
Lopez had earlier said most provinces in the country can already be placed under the most relaxed MGCQ, pointing to improved healthcare systems nationwide as he stressed the need for more economic activities to revive industries and spur local spending.
But the Health Professionals Alliance against COVID-19 (HPAAC) called on the government to take it slow in further relaxing community lockdowns in the country, especially in Metro Manila.
After previously calling for a two-week return to enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), HPAAC co-convenor Dr. Maricar Limpin said easing restrictions might be premature as the number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the country remains relatively high.
“We would like to believe that we should take it slow in loosening up the quarantine measures. Our recommendation is don’t immediately loosen up quarantine measures because cases are still high. The decrease is only starting,” Limpin said.
Limpin said the government should wait until the COVID-19 trend starts to go downward.
“Maybe, when we come to a point that cases are already low, then that’s the time that we can already loosen up quarantine measures,” said the HPAAC official.
Prematurely doing so, she said, can result to the people already disregarding existing health protocols, as seen in the incident at the Manila Bay.
“We may become complacent and think that the battle is already over. Look at what is happening now, we are still at GCQ and yet many still wear face masks but without face shields and do not maintain physical distancing,” said Limpin.
On Monday, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said community lockdowns in certain parts of the country may already be relaxed by October as transmission of the virus has gradually decreased.
Roque, however, stressed that the possibility of Metro Manila being placed under a more relaxed community quarantine is still unlikely.
Back in August, it was HPAAC that called on the government to place Metro Manila under ECQ for at least two weeks in order to allow the healthcare system to recuperate.
Subsequently, President Duterte placed Metro Manila, as well as Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite, and Laguna under modified ECQ until August 18. – With Gerard Naval