Densely populated region termed as the National Capital Region Plus (NCR+) was recommended placed under the general community quarantine (GCQ) without tighter controls starting 16 June, the authoritative OCTA Research Group said.
President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to announce the new classification in Metro Manila and other areas during his “Talk to the People” slated on Monday night.
In a radio interview, OCTA Research fellow, Dr. Guido David, said the University of the Philippines group supports recommendations for a more relaxed GCQ in the NCR, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal amid the downtrend in Covid-19 cases in the bubble.
“We are hearing recommendation but it is still up to the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to decide but the prevailing recommendation is to retain GCQ without the heightened restrictions,” he said.
David noted that despite an increase in the Covid-19 cases in the country, the cases in the NCR Plus continues to decrease.
“We can reopen more businesses. At this time, the situation in NCR continues to improve. Our positivity rate is down to eight percent, the reproduction rate is at 0.72 and the hospitalization rate is below 40 percent, so we are at the safe level,” David added.
He noted that at present Metro Manila is only averaging at least 900 cases a day compared to the peak of 6,500 cases from 29 March to 4 April.
“From 94 percent of the total cases, Metro Manila contributes at least 27 percent of the total cases and the decrease is really significant,” according to David.
However, David said that overall, the total Covid cases nationwide increased by one percent, while the reproduction rate is at 1.04.
“Despite the improvement in the situation in the NCR, a surge in Covid cases is being experienced in many areas outside the NCR Plus. We see an increase in many areas in Mindanao and Visayas, particularly, Western Visayas, Leyte, Tacloban, Dumaguete, Bicol, particularly Naga and Legaspi,” David said.
According to David, Metro Manila is now in a safe level to open the economy.
“We can take some risks in opening more businesses. So far, we did not see community transmission in business establishments, meaning the sector is very careful in implementing guidelines and this has prevented community transmission and we trust that it will do the same if the government allows certain type of businesses to reopen,” he said.
David said the mass gathering like pool parties and congregation should continue to be banned.
“As we observed, large social gatherings, like pool parties are really superspreader events just like what happened in certain areas,” he noted.
At the same time, David said OCTA welcomed the decision of the IATF to allow the operation of gyms and other non-contact sports as part of efforts to reopen the economy.
“When it comes to gyms, if we can find implementing guidelines, they can still wear masks to prevent transmission, we can swing it,” he said.
David said vaccination is still the solution to prevent the spike in the Covid cases in the country.
Ready exit strategy
“The real solution is in the vaccination. If we are able to reach population protection, even if it’s not through herd immunity, we can anticipate lower risks in all areas of the country, meaning cases in the country will not exceed 1,000 per day,” he noted.
At the same time, David said the government should start preparing for an exit strategy once the target of the government in its vaccination drive is achieved.
“By this time, we should be preparing for our exit strategy, meaning we will have a transition from the old normal to a new normal with less restrictions as we vaccinate more people, this is very important,” he said.
The GCQ with heightened restrictions in the NCR Plus will end on Tuesday, 15 June, as approved by Duterte.