After being placed Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) and Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) in the past two months, President Rodrigo Duterte announced that NCR, Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite, and Rizal (the NCR Plus bubble) will shift to General Community Quarantine (GCQ) once again starting May 15 to May 31, 2021.
Don’t expect it to be like the GCQ we experienced late last year. This time, NCR Plus will be under GCQ “with heightened restrictions”. Confused? Well, so are we. Because effectively, it is a “strict” form of GCQ.
Based on the announcement, strict GCQ seems to be the same as MECQ. For starters, only individuals from age 18 to 65 can leave their homes during the period. Moreover, only essential travel in and out of the NCR Plus bubble conducted by authorized persons will be allowed. That means no summer vacation trips out to the provinces yet; no Baguio trips to beat the summer heat. Public transport will also remain operational but will be at limited capacity subject to Department of Transportation (DOTr) guidelines.
Indoor and outdoor dining will continue to be allowed at a limited capacity. Religious gatherings and gatherings for necrological services, wakes, inurnment, and funerals for those who died of causes other than COVID-19 in NCR Plus will be allowed up to 10% of the venue capacity. Unfortunately, entertainment venues such as bars, arcades, and conference venues will not be allowed just yet.
Interestingly, outdoor tourist attractions will be allowed at 30% capacity in NCR Plus but with strict adherence to minimal safety protocols. Furthermore, non-contact sports and outdoor games, along with personal care services that do not require mask removal, such as salons, parlors, and beauty clinics, will be allowed to operate at 30% capacity.
There was no mention of whether the current 10:00 PM to 4:00 AM curfew will be lifted. It's the same with checkpoints around Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
Despite the shift to a more “relaxed” form of quarantine, this doesn't mean you should be heading out of the house for no reason. Remember, there are still thousands of new cases being reported daily, and worse, the more contagious variants are now in the country. The last thing we want is for the region to revert to ECQ for the third time.