By now, you might have already heard that the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) has been extended to last until May 15, 2020. With it, people living and working in Metro Manila, Region 3, Region 4A, and other parts of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao must strictly follow the ECQ guidelines.
However, not all provinces and locations in the Philippines are placed under an ECQ. Instead, some areas will be under what government calls 'General Community Quarantine' (GCQ). Dubbed by Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque as the 'new normal', areas that are under GCQ will have a more relaxed set of guidelines as they have a low-to-moderate risk with regards to COVID-19. However, children aged from 0 – 20, as well as seniors aged 60 and above are still required to stay at home.
With it, work in several sectors under GCQ like office, construction, manufacturing, electronics, export, e-commerce, logistics, and delivery of essential and non-essential services are given the option to resume operations. The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) also recommended businesses to conduct 50% on-site work, and 50% work-from-home to lessen the chances of people transmitting the disease. All schools under GCQ, however, are not yet allowed to open and they have been recommended to reopen come September 2020.
Meanwhile, the opening of malls will also be allowed, but will only cover non-leisure shops like supermarkets, restaurants, and fast-food services. Construction of priority and essential infrastructure projects can also continue. Public transportation can resume operations albeit in a reduced capacity, while LGUs are mandated to enforce curfew at night for non-essential workers. Airports and seaports will only be open to accommodate and process basic goods and commodities.
As for the resuming of industry operations in areas under GCQ, the IATF has recommended the full (or partial) reopening of the agricultural, fishery, and forestry businesses. Also included are those under food manufacturing, supply chain, ink, packaging, raw materials, logistics, utilities, and media.
The following places that will be placed under GCQ are Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Siquijor, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriential, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Sur, Apayao, Mt. Province, Ifugao, Kalinga, Ilocos Sur, Batanes, Quirino, Aurora, Palawan, Romblon, Camarines Norte, Sorsogon, Masbate, Guimaras, Bohol, Biliran, Eastern Samar, Leyte, Northern Samar, Southern Leyte, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay, Bukidnon, Camiguin, Davao Occidental, Sarangani, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Dinagat Island, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Basilan, and Sulu.
Moderate-risk areas that are currently being reviewed to be put under GCQ are Abra, Aklan, Cagayan, Camarines Sur, Capiz, Ilocos Norte, Isabela, La Union, Lanao del Norte, Nueva Vizcaya, Maguindanao, Marinduque, Misamis Occidental, Misamis Oriental, North Cotabato, Samar, Western Samar, South Cotabato, and Zamboanga del Sur.
So does this mean that the people living in areas under GCQ can now drive freely? Well, not necessarily.
While GCQ isn't as restrictive as the ECQ, the public is only allowed to go out of their residences to buy basic necessities (i.e. food, water, medicines, supplies). But in order to reduce the chances of the disease spreading further in low-to-moderate areas, the IATF has recommended minimizing outside exposure as little as possible. In addition, most leisure activities and businesses are not allowed to operate just yet. The GCQ in select areas will officially begin starting May 1, 2020.
With the country's confirmed number of cases nearing 7,000, the country still has a long way to recover. But at least it's nice to see that some provinces in the country are doing well despite the threat of COVID-19.