Metro Manila begins experimental lockdown scheme in bid to reopen economy

Metro Manila transitioned to less stringent COVID-19 quarantine curbs on Thursday, September 16, while kicking off the implementation of a new lockdown scheme in an attempt to restart economic activity in the nation's capital.

Under the new general community quarantine (GCQ) with Alert Level 4, many business establishments that were closed for over a month were allowed to reopen, although at a very limited capacity.

In some cities, mayors and other local officials made the rounds at commercial establishments to make sure that business owners were compliant with the protocols under the alert level system.

In Pasay, at least one restaurant was given a warning for accommodating a customer for dine-in services even though they were only partially vaccinated against COVID-19.

Under the new guidelines, restaurants can only resume indoor dining at 10% capacity for fully vaccinated individuals as long as all members of their staff are also fully inoculated against the coronavirus. Customers who have yet to complete their doses can avail themselves of the al-fresco dining option.

"We sent caution to an establishment. We reminded them that customers [indoors] must be fully vaccinated. We gave them a warning," Pasay City police chief Col. Cesar Paday-os said in Filipino.

In Caloocan, Mandaluyong, and San Juan, local officials began awarding "100% fully vaccinated" seals to qualified business establishments.

San Juan Mayor Francis Zamora warned that establishments that would lie about the vaccination status of their employees could have their business permits revoked.

"Magsilbi sana itong babala sa business establishments na huwag manloko. Kung kayo ay aming maabutan na kayo ay nag-o-operate na mayroong empleyadong hindi fully vaccinated, puwede namin kayong ipasara agad-agad," he said.

(May this serve as a warning to business establishments. If you are operating even though you have an employee who is not fully vaccinated, we could shut you down immediately.)

Granular lockdowns

The pilot run of the new lockdown scheme also puts a focus on the implementation of granular lockdowns.

In Makati, Mayor Abby Binay ordered a granular lockdown of a street in H. Santos St. in Barangay Tejeros beginning Thursday.

"I ordered the granular lockdown after noting an increase in the number of COVID-positive cases in the said area. We need to contain the infection by promptly identifying, isolating, and treating infected residents," Binay said.

In general, there was no noticeable uptick in the number of areas placed under small-scale lockdowns on Thursday. It is important to point out that cities in the region have been enforcing granular lockdowns even before the start of the new lockdown scheme.

It has yet to be determined how effective the new lockdown scheme would be, which was launched at a time when Metro Manila was grappling with 48,000 active COVID-19 cases.

But the prolonged lockdowns in August have hampered consumer spending, prompting the national government to rethink its strategy in striking a balance between its two priorities: public health and the economy. ā€“ Rappler.com