It's official: the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) has been extended until May 15, 2020. This comes after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the extension of the ECQ in three regions [National Capital Region (NCR), Central Luzon (Region 3), Calabarzon (Region 4A)], due to the continued rise of COVID-19 cases in these areas defined as "high-risk".
The COVID-19 pandemic has effectively put a full stop to everyone’s daily routines and now, we have to wait for another three weeks for it to be lifted, or be given yet another extension.
Listed below are the following areas wherein the strict ECQ guidelines will remain in effect: National Capital Region, Albay, Bataan, Batangas, Benguet, Bulacan, Cavite, Catanduanes, Laguna, Nueva Ecija, Quezon, Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro, Pampanga, Rizal, and Zamboanga. Come May 16, there will be a reevaluation as to which places will be allowed to relax ECQ guidelines.
Meanwhile, the following areas that are under ECQ will be up for reevaluation by April 30. These are Aklan Antique, Benguet, Capiz, Cebu, Cebu City, Davao del Norte, Davao City, Iloilo, Pangasinan, Tarlac, and Zambales.
What does this mean for us, the motoring and commuting public?
We must simply remember that all the rules of driving a motor vehicle with respect to checkpoints and social distancing still apply. Enforcers from both the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the military have continually been deployed to make sure that everyone is complying. With regard to using your motor vehicle, you must be an Authorized Person Outside of Residence (APOR).
In a nutshell, if you are part of the medical, security, and funeral services, or if you are working for the distribution of daily essentials (banks, drug stores, markets, and groceries, etc.), or if you are delivering essential goods (truck drivers, cargo personnel, etc.), then you are free to ply the roads.
For those who fall outside of the aforementioned groups, then you have to make sure that you are the assigned person in your household to go out to avail of any of the above-mentioned services or goods. Keep your quarantine pass in-hand, though, and remember that it will not automatically allow you passage. Should you be asked questions at checkpoints, please understand that is simply protocol and not something you should worry about; unless you’re really up to no good.
As for social distancing inside a vehicle, a sedan is limited to only four occupants, and that includes the driver. No further mention of occupant numbers inside larger vehicles (eg. vans) has been mentioned but the rule for sedans is a good benchmark.
Violations of any quarantine rules may subject you to fines, and for the sake of your own safety please don’t give our enforcers a reason to accost you.
Stay safe and healthy, everyone. We hope to see you out on the roads again soon.