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Gov’t to impose longer curfew in NCR during ECQ

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The government will enforce longer curfew hours in Metro Manila during the imposition of the country’s strictest lockdown classification in the region as it seeks to control the spread of the highly contagious Covid-19 Delta variant.

Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos Jr., chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, announced on Monday that curfew hours will be from 8 p.m. until 4 a.m. during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) from 6 to 20 August.

“Metro mayors unanimously voted for it,” Abalos said during a press briefing in Malacañang.

It was longer than the existing curfew hours of 12 a.m. to 4 a.m., while the region remains under general community quarantine with “heightened and additional” restrictions.

The government has previously extended curfew hours in the metro when it shifts to ECQ, in an effort to discourage gatherings which may turn into “super spreaders” of Covid-19.

Meanwhile, the use of quarantine passes for individuals who would step outside their homes, as well as the imposition of liquor ban in metro cities during the two-week ECQ, would depend on local government units, Abalos said.

The government is expected to grant P1,000 to P4,000 cash aid for every low-income family in the capital region as thousands of Filipinos would become jobless during ECQ, which Abalos said may be given in select sites.

The said amount was similar to the financial assistance given to 11 million poor individuals in Metro Manila during the strict lockdown last March.

“With deference to the process of cash aid distribution, perhaps we will duplicate what we did in the past. Maybe, we will just fine tune it to avoid potential super spreader events,” he said.

“A door-to-door distribution is difficult for us, especially since we will also continue our vaccination program,” Abalos added.

The Palace, however, admitted that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has yet to determine the possible source of funds for the cash aid.

Presidential spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque said the DBM would discuss on Monday afternoon the potential sources of government funds for the amelioration program.

“We were still unsure where we will get our funds, but the mandate of the President was to look for possible sources since we cannot impose lockdowns without cash aid,” Roque told reporters in the same briefing.

As of posting time, the DBM has yet to disclose what transpired during their meeting.

About P105 billion would be lost to the economy for each week Metro Manila was under hard lockdown, according to the latest estimate of Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua, who also leads the National Economic and Development Authority.

The imposition of ECQ would also increase the number of poor people by up to 177,000 and the unemployed by 444,000, he added.

Metro Manila accounts for nearly 40 percent of the country’s GDP.

Under ECQ, only select industries such as health services, agriculture, forestry, fishery, and necessary stores including groceries, pharmacies, and supermarkets were permitted to operate.

On the other hand, businesses and establishments deemed “non-essential” were barred from operating during the two-week lockdown in the metro.

Before the metro’s shift to GCQ, checkpoints have been activated on Sunday midnight at the borders of the capital region and nearby Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna, and Cavite — collectively known as the NCR Plus — to bar people from going out of the bubble.

The checkpoints would remain at the borders until ECQ becomes effective in Metro Manila.

The pandemic task force recently approved the shortening of Covid-19 detection and isolation interval to less than five days.

These include the conduct of active case finding in all areas, contact tracing, quarantine and testing of cases and close contacts, and identification of areas with case increases or infection clustering.

“Such order was realistic,” Roque said. “We need to do it so we can decrease the number of Covid-19 cases amid the threat of the new variants.”

The members of the pandemic task force, he said, also agreed to prioritize facility-based isolation and quarantine to prevent household transmission of coronavirus.

The government would also ramp up of Covid-19 vaccination among senior citizens and persons with underlying medical conditions, Roque added.

So far, the Philippines has confirmed 1.59 million coronavirus infections, in which over 63,000 cases remain active.

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