MANILA - (UPDATE) President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday said he is again placing Metro Manila, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal and Bulacan on modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) following the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.
The MECQ will last from August 4 to 18. Under MECQ trains, buses, jeepneys, taxis, ride-hailing services, tricycles are not allowed to operate. Manufacturing plants and other establishments are allowed to operate only with half their capacity.
Duterte revived the stricter quarantine measures for the capital after healthcare workers’ groups called for a return to ECQ to give exhausted frontline medical personnel a breather.
“I have heard of different groups from the medical community for a two-week ECQ in Mega Manila. I fully understand why your health workers would like to ask for such a time out,” Duterte said in a speech aired late Sunday night.
The number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines breached the 100,000 mark on Sunday as a record 5,032 new cases of the disease were confirmed raising the nationwide total to 103,185.
An expert from the University of the Philippines warned that at this rate, the country will have more than 150,000 cases by the end of August.
The President appealed to healthcare workers to be more patient, as he promised that government will ensure that they will be provided with additional benefits, such as risk allowance for private sector healthcare workers treating COVID-19 patients. They will also be entitled to up to P15,000 in sickness benefits, life insurance, free accommodation, free transportation, as well as free and frequent testing.
“We are ready to consider itong, if you want to term it stipend, or allowances, or pay. Give us time, we will make a report. Sana masali ito sa the second Bayanihan, ibibigay ito sa inyo ora mismo. No delay,” Duterte said.
In a statement, Palace spokesman Harry Roque also confirmed that President Duterte also approved the hiring of 10,000 additional medical professionals; the issuance of work and quarantine passes to the public to minimize movement; intensified implementation of the localized lockdown strategy and Oplan Kalinga by LGUs; stricter enforcement of minimum health standards; provision of 20 million face masks for the poor, and; the use of RT-PCR as gold standard for COVID-19 testings.
Despite implementing one of the longest and strictest lockdowns, the Philippines has seen COVID-19 cases surge as government efforts at testing continued to lag behind targets.
Other branches of government have already announced that they will go on lockdown.
The Supreme Court said it will be closing all courts in the National Capital Region as well as other areas under enhanced community quarantine and modified enhanced community quarantine for two weeks.
The Senate leadership is reportedly also eyeing the upper chamber's lockdown in a “show of support and concern for frontliners.”
With a report from Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News