(UPDATED) After COVID-19 cases shot up to nearly 8,000 over the weekend, the Philippine government announced stricter quarantine measures – what is essentially a GCQ-MECQ hybrid enforced within a new Metro Manila-Rizal-Bulacan-Cavite-Laguna bubble.
National Task Force vs COVID-19 spokesman Restituto Padilla calls the bubble, "NCR Plus."
The new protocols are in effect from March 22 to April 4, unless extended or shortened by President Rodrigo Duterte.
We answer your questions about these new restrictions, based on the most recent official statements from Malacañang and pandemic task force officials.
A copy of the Malacañang memorandum that officially lays out these rules is at the end of this article.
Persons in Metro Manila, Rizal, Bulacan, Cavite, and Laguna can do everything they used to do under the normal GCQ (General Community Quarantine), including staycations within the "NCR Plus" bubble, except for the following:
In MECQ (Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine), public transportation was prohibited. In the stricter GCQ, this is not the case.
In MECQ, varying limitations on on-site capacity for all sectors had been imposed. Under this stricter GCQ, the government is only encouraging a reduction to 30% to 50% of capacity for most of the private sector. The only exceptions are for the following establishments:
However, Metro Manila mayors decided to completely close gyms, spas, and internet cafes until April 4 in the region. The decision does not cover Rizal, Cavite, Laguna, and Bulacan.
The government also emphasized workplace rules like a ban on group meals and face-to-face meetings. It highly recommends the adoption of work-from-home arrangements.
A person can only travel in and out of the bubble if they meet the following criteria:
There will be no mobility restrictions inside the "NCR Plus" bubble, said Philippine National Police officer-in-charge Lieutenant General Guillermo Eleazar on Monday, March 22.
"Checkpoints in NCR are not to restrict movement," he said during a Palace news briefing. "Within the bubble, the movement is not restricted. It is only when crossing the border that we will be strictly monitoring."
Travel for staycations or tourism within "NCR Plus" is also allowed, but only for 19 to 64 year-old persons, said the Department of Health, citing tourism department rules.
The government also introduced these recommendations as additional ways to keep safe at home:
At the workplace, these additional measures were also recommended to ensure workers were kept safe:
When will Filipinos start to see its effects?
In a forum on Monday, March 22, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that with restrictions in place starting today, Filipinos may start seeing its effects on transmission in 3 to 4 weeks.
She added its impact on the health system's capacity may take longer to see since patients needing treatment tend to stay in the hospital for long periods of time.
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.