The Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) would decide this week if Metro Manila and other areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) would be placed under a more lenient lockdown status.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed on Sunday that the IATF, which serves as the government’s policy-making body on pandemic response, would convene this week to discuss the matter.
Business groups, as well as Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, have been pushing to place the capital region under modified GCQ to allow the reopening of more businesses and public transportation.
Under modified GCQ, public gatherings such as movie screenings, concerts, sporting events and other entertainment activities are allowed, but participants may fill no more than half of the capacity of the venue.
The same rule applies to religious gatherings, community assemblies, and non-essential work gatherings.
However, researchers and analysts from the University of the Philippines (UP) have warned that a premature easing of GCQ in Metro Manila would lead to an “exponential” rise come Christmas time.
The UP group said in a report that while the situation in the capital region has “improved,” it has yet to achieve the 28-day case doubling time set by the IATF as a prerequisite to shift into modified GCQ status.
The GCQ status in Metro Manila would lapse by the end of the month and President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to announce his decision on the quarantine level on or before Wednesday.
Metro Manila is the region that has stayed the longest under GCQ for nearly four months, a quarantine classification which allows public transportation and most industries but prohibits tourism activities, entertainment events, and large mass gatherings.
Of the 61,766 active COVID-19 cases in the Philippines as of Saturday, Metro Manila accounts for 45 percent of the number with 28,010 infections.
Apart from the capital region, other areas under GCQ until the end-September are Bulacan, Batangas, and Tacloban City.
Roque previously said that the government is eyeing to place parts of the country without COVID-19 cases in the past month under the “new normal” classification, which lifts restrictions on business activities including travel, provided that minimum health standards are observed.
The “new normal” classification used to be the fifth and lowest quarantine classification until the task force temporarily removed it in June.
Under the current four-tier classification, the MGCQ is most lenient lockdown status.