Gov't changes mind, imposes modified GCQ in 8 low-risk regions
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The government's coronavirus task force changed its mind overnight about lifting quarantine measures in 8 "low-risk" regions, saying these areas would be placed under modified general community quarantine (GCQ) beginning May 16, in response to the clamor of governors and mayors.
"Wala na po tayong area sa buong Pilipinas na hindi under ng community quarantine. Iba-iba lang po ang level (There will be no area in the Philippines that is not under community quarantine. There will only be different levels)," Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said in a briefing on Wednesday, May 13.
On Tuesday, May 12, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for Emerging Infectious Diseases said the GCQ will be lifted in 37 provinces and 11 cities with the lowest number of coronavirus cases to make way for the "strict observation of minimum health standards."
Año said the task force changed its mind after receiving messages from local chief executives nationwide appealing the decision. He said they wanted to retain some powers to stem the spread of the coronavirus disease in their localities.
"Magkakaroon tayo ng amendment upang ang provinces na ito in 8 regions ay malalagay sila sa modified GCQ (We will issue an amendment to put these provinces in 8 regions under a modified GCQ)," Año said. (READ: Metro Manila, Cebu City, Laguna under 'modified' ECQ until May 31)
These areas are the regions of Ilocos, Mimaropa, Bicol, Western Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Davao, and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
Año said the task force will issue guidelines after its scheduled meeting on Wednesday afternoon.
'Proceed with caution'
Among the local executives who appealed the task force's decision were Bukidnon Governor Jose Maria Zubiri and Pangasinan Governor Amado Espino III.
The Bukidnon provincial government issued a resolution "earnestly appealing to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) screening committee to retain and extend the general community quarantine status" of the province.
The province in Northern Mindanao particularly wanted to maintain quarantine control points in its boundaries, Zubiri said.
Espino also wrote to the government task force to urge the national government to put the province in Northern Luzon under GCQ.
Espino said the province was still experiencing increase in the number of its suspected cases.
"It is our humble belief that we have to proceed with caution towards our path to the "new normal," he said. – with reports from Bobby Lagsa/Rappler.com