So, last night President Rodrigo Duterte and the national government decided that areas under the more relaxed quarantine measures (i.e. GCQ) will have to revert to the stricter modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) to try and mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
The MECQ will be implemented in Metro Manila, Rizal, Laguna, Cavite, and Bulacan, and will commence from tomorrow (or tonight) August 4 at midnight and last until August 18, 2020.
The administration has previously declared that the more relaxed GCQ will remain from August 1 to 15. They changed their decision amidst public calls from medical professionals and front liners for stricter quarantine protocols after several areas, particularly highly populated areas, experienced a strong rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases.
The move to revert such areas to MECQ status means business activities and employment will likely be affected due to the fact that non-essential services and businesses will have to either close down or reduce their work staff to comply with MECQ guidelines.
But with the revert, what do you need to know as a motorist or as a commuter?
1. Who can't go or drive out?
Under MECQ guidelines previously released by the national government, strict home quarantine will be observed.
The guidelines make it clear that persons below 21 years old, persons who are at least 60 years old (senior citizens), persons already at health risk (i.e. immunodeficiency), pregnant women, or even persons that reside with such individuals will have to stay home.
The only exceptions will be when persons living under MECQ have to access basic goods and services from specific businesses (i.e. supermarkets, drugstores, banks) or when a person has to go to work at a business approved to operate under MECQ.
The key acronym to remember with MECQ is APOR, or Authorized Persons Outside Residence.
These persons can be out and about during the MECQ and include the likes of government employees (i.e. law enforcement, health officials), emergency respondents, healthcare workers, delivery workers, bank staff, supermarket staff, basic utility employees (i.e. power company) or other personnel deemed to be essential to the population.
If you are not an APOR (meaning you don't work in the approved industries under MECQ like sports facilities), stay home.
3. Back to stricter checkpoints
If you are an APOR and you drive out, expect traffic to build up at checkpoints that will likely become de facto choke points. As with the previous implementation of MECQ and ECQ, expect checkpoints will be manned by members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) with the support of (but not limited to) members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, healthcare officials and staff, and the like.
A violation of quarantine measures will mean either being turned back or worse, fines and penalties.
4. Shutdown of public transport
Buses, jeepneys, taxis, and TNVS will not be allowed to operate under MECQ. Tricycles are not allowed, but there will be exceptions depending on the guidelines by the DILG and LGUs. The Department of Transportation will be suspending public transportation such as all railways (PNR, LRT-1, LRT-2, and MRT-3) under the MECQ.
As before, companies that are allowed to operate under MECQ can procure or contract private shuttles for their employees, but each vehicle will be at 50% capacity only. Under MECQ, shuttles will have to acquire a special permit from the LTFRB in order to operate
5. Private vehicles allowed for APOR
If you are an APOR (with correct and valid identification or papers), you may drive your personal motor vehicles. Private vehicles can also be used for persons procuring basic goods and services.
The DOTr stressed that only two persons per row of seats will be allowed in motor vehicles.
Under the MECQ, two-wheeled transport such as bicycles, motorcycles, and even electric scooters will be allowed. But what will be strictly disallowed is backriding of any kind. Only the rider (who must be an APOR) will be allowed on the two-wheeled conveyance.
The MECQ will be implemented in Metro Manila, Laguna, Rizal, Bulacan and Cavite at midnight tonight and will last for two weeks. If you don't need to go out for basic goods or for work, just stay home. And stay safe.