NCR plus to revert to ECQ for Holy Week, Palace confirms


(UPDATED) The National Capital Region (NCR) and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal will revert to the most stringent quarantine level for the Holy Week beginning 12:01 a.m. Monday, March 29, 2021, in a bid to slow down transmission of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said President Rodrigo Duterte approved the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to place the capital region and the four provinces, collectively known as NCR plus or Greater Manila Area, under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) a week after the same area was placed in a Covid-19 bubble.

"Sa madaling salita, homeliners po tayo muli. Sa bahay po tayo, except kung magta-trabaho tayo sa bukas na industriya, kung tayo po ay Apor at para kumuha ng mga necessities gaya po ng pagkain at gamot," he said.

(In short, we shall be homeliners again. Everyone should stay home, except those working in allowed industries, authorized persons outside residence and those on errands to procure necessities such as food and medicine.)

Roque said, however, that the public transportation system will continue to operate, albeit at a limited capacity, and essential businesses will remain open.

He said there is no need for the affected population, estimated at 25 million, to panic because both the Department of Trade and Industry, and Department of Agriculture have assured that there is enough supply of basic and prime commodities.

"Mga kababayan, huwag na po kayong mag-panic. Kasi hindi naman ito unang karanasan natin sa ECQ. Sa ECQ po, bukas lahat ng supermarkets, bukas ang palengke, bukas ang convenience stores. At sinisigurado po ng DA at ng DTI na sapat po ang bilihin sa lahat ng ating merkado," Roque said.

(My fellow countrymen, don't panic. This is not our first ECQ. Under ECQ, supermarkets, public markets and convenience stores will remain open. The DA and DTI have assured that there is ample supply of consumer items in all markets.)

Mass gatherings are prohibited. The curfew is extended to 6 p.m.-5 a.m. for the entire area.

Indigent families may expect a little financial assistance from the government. The amount was being finalized as of Saturday evening, Roque said.

"Dahil naiintindihan po ni Presidente na habang tayo ay naka-ECQ, eh walang pupuwedeng magtrabaho, magkakaroon po tayo ng tulong na ipamimigay sa ating mga kababayan," he said.

(The President understands that under ECQ, no one will be allowed to go to work so there will be assistance.)

Government expects minimal economic disruption since this new lockdown, which will occur a little more than a year after Metro Manila was first placed under quarantine on March 15, 2020, will be imposed on Holy Week. Roque noted that Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are regular non-working holidays.

There will be increased presence of uniformed personnel, but there will be no need for a travel pass at checkpoints, Roque added. Essential cargoes, especially food, will be allowed to pass through these checkpoints.

The announcement was made at past 6 p.m. Saturday, a couple of hours after the Department of Health (DOH) announced 9,595 new cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), nearly 10,000 for the second day in a row.

Aside from imposing a lockdown, Roque said the National Task Force Against Covid-19 (NTF) and local government units (LGUs) will intensify prevention, detection, isolation and treatment efforts.

They will also strictly enforce the minimum public health standards, such as wearing of face masks and face shields, physical distancing and hand hygiene, in public areas and workplaces.

Roque also said government will conduct a house-to-house campaign to detect cases and trace contacts of confirmed cases.

"Magbabahay-bahay po tayo na maghahanap ng mga taong meron pong mga sintomas," he said. (We will conduct a house-to-house search for individuals who have symptoms of Covid-19.)

He said those found positive for the virus that causes Covid-19 as well as suspect cases and close contacts of confirmed cases will be placed in isolation.

Roque’s announcement confirmed the social media posts of Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla and Laguna Governor Ramil Hernandez about the ECQ.

In separate social media posts, Remulla and Hernandez said, respectively, that Cavite and Laguna will revert to ECQ on March 28.

Remulla took down his Twitter post about 30 minutes later, at about the same time that Malacañang advised that Roque was scheduled to make an announcement at 6 p.m. Saturday.

As of Saturday, active Covid-19 cases in the country have gone up to a record high 118,122, 16.6 percent of the country’s 712,442 cumulative caseload, the DOH case bulletin showed.

The 9,595 cases on Saturday brought the partial case count for March 2021 to 136,370, much higher than the 127,465 cases recorded in the entire month of August 2020.

Read: March 2021 partial Covid-19 count surpasses August 2020 record

As of March 25, there were 41 health facilities with critical Covid-19 utilization rates of over 85 percent, 24 at high risk and 15 at moderate risk in Metro Manila. The number of facilities that were still in the safe zone decreased to 72, the DOH tracker showed. (Marites Villamor-Ilano / SunStar Philippines)


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