BACK TO GCQ. President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his public address in Davao City on Monday night (Aug. 17, 2020). Duterte approved the recommendation to place Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal back to less stringent general community quarantine beginning Aug. 19. (Photo from PCOO FB page)

MANLA – President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Monday night approved the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to put Metro Manila and four nearby provinces back to less restrictive general community quarantine (GCQ).

In his public address in Davao City, Duterte said aside from the National Capital Region, GCQ will also be implemented in Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal from Aug. 19 to 31.

Dutere added that Nueva Ecija, Batangas and Quezon provinces along with cities of Iloilo, Cebu, Lapu-Lapu, Mandaue, and Talisay and the municipalities of Minglanilla and Consolacion in Cebu province would also be placed under GCQ.

“For the rest of the Philippines, modified general community quarantine,” Duterte said. “So, we just be careful, follow the safeguards.”

On Aug. 2, Duterte reverted Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal to second most stringent MECQ from Aug. 3 to 18 after the medical community requested a “timeout” due to the rising Covid-19 cases.

With more industries prepare to reopen under GCQ beginning Aug. 19, Duterte clarified that reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) are not required for asymptomatic employees returning to work.

He, however, said “priority workers” in the sectors of manufacturing, tourism, and public service with high Covid-19 cases “may undergo RT-PCR test”.

He said employers of these sectors “are highly encouraged” to have their employees undergo Covid-19 testing “at no cost”.

“We want to ensure the safety of our people. However, some sectors, especially the MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) are barely surviving,” Duterte said.

As he made the recommendation, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque told the President that under GCQ, more industries will reopen and dine-in and religious services with up to 30 percent capacity will be allowed.

“Halos lahat po ng (Almost all) industries will reopen, except for mass gatherings like entertainment and amusement for kids,” Roque said.

Roque said the national and local government used the two-week MECQ restrictions in Metro Manila and four nearby provinces to refresh and strengthen the government response against Covid-19 particularly in testing, tracing, and treatment of positive cases.

He said the government will also conduct pilot for pool testing wherein at least 15 individuals will be tested using one test kit and will build more quarantine and health facilities for Covid-19 patients.

As of Monday, health authorities said the country has a total of 164,474 Covid-19 cases, including 112,759 recoveries and 2,681 deaths. (PNA)