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    Latest IATF resolution provides MECQ implementation details

    MANILA, Philippines – The latest resolution of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), Resolution No. 36, approved the guidelines on the implementation of the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) that will be in effect in the National Capital Region, the province of Laguna, Cebu City and Central Luzon areas starting May 16.

    Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque Jr.
    Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque Jr.

    READ: Bulacan, Pampanga, 4 other areas now under MECQ – DILG

    The IATF likewise issued an amendment to its previous resolution, Resolution No. 35-A, after deliberation of IATF members.

    “Nag-isyu ang IATF ng amendment sa Resolution No. 35 na simula Mayo disi-sais, ang mga probinsya, highly urbanized cities at independent component cities na classified as low risk areas ay mapapasailalim pa rin sa general community quarantine (GCQ),” clarified Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque Jr., in his May 14 press briefing in Malacañang.

    Secretary Roque likewise mentioned the resolutions of IATF Resolution No. 36. First among these is the approval of the Guidelines on the Implementation of the Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ).

    “Na-aprubahan din po na ang mga land-based or sea-based OFWs ay papayagan pong umalis para sa abroad. Kinakailangan lang po na magsumite sila at lumagda ng deklarasyon na alam po nila ang risk na kanilang haharapin kung sila po ay pupunta sa kanilang mga trabaho,” said Secretary Roque.

    Accordingly, recruitment and placement agencies are now allowed to operate in MECQ and GCQ areas. Government offices and agencies that are involved in the processing of the deployment of papers of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) are directed to create “green lanes” to expedite processing of employment papers and deployment of OFWs.

    The IATF also supported the recommendation to encourage the Department of Social Welfare and Development and local government units to directly purchase fresh agri-fishery products and rice from Farmer Cooperatives and Associations for their food packs distribution.

    On the opening of classes in higher education institutions (HEIs), the Palace spokesman announced that the IATF adopted the recommendations of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to base class openings on education delivery mode.

    “Ibig sabihin po, kung gumagamit ng full online education ay makapagbubukas po sila kahit anong oras. Ang Higher Education Institutions na gumagamit ng Flexible Learning ay makapagbubukas anumang oras sa Agosto 2020. At yung mga Higher Education Institutions na gumagamit ng significant na face-to-face/in-person mode ay makapagbubukas lamang po ng hindi mas maaga ng Setyembre [1], 2020 sa mga lugar na nasa ilalim ng GCQ,” explained Secretary Roque.

    Meanwhile, private HEIs are allowed to modify their academic calendar and open in August. The CHED will also continue to review conditions and discussions with HEIs.

    Secretary Roque also clarified that LGUs are now authorized to procure and utilize the rapid antibody test kits that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

    Restrictions

    According to the phased transition plan for the transition from ECQ to GCQ, restrictions are still in place under MECQ: People still need to stay at home, limited outdoor exercise are allowed like outdoor walking, jogging, and biking as long as safety protocols are observed, and mass gatherings are still highly restricted (up to 5 persons maximum are allowed).

    In MECQ areas, there are still no public transport, there will be no domestic flights except for limited international flights, and inbound travel will be controlled, only overseas Filipino workers and returning Filipinos will be allowed. Biking and non-motorized transport are encouraged, and there will still be no inter-island travel.

    Schools will still be closed in MECQ areas. Government work will still be skeleton onsite and work from home for majority of employees in MECQ, while alternative work arrangements are encouraged in GCQ areas.

    Since public transport is still disallowed, frontline workers or those who will return to work in allowed industries under the MECQ will have to take the public shuttle for frontline workers, or companies will have to provide shuttle service.

    Under MECQ, there are more sectors and industries that will be opened, mostly with 50 percent of employees allowed to work on-site. Previously disallowed sectors like malls and commercial centers for non-leisure services will now be allowed under MECQ.

    The following sectors are not allowed to operate either in areas under MECQ or GCQ:
    • Gyms/fitness studios and sports facilities
    • Entertainment industries (cinemas, theaters, karaoke bars, etc.)
    • Kid amusement industries (e.g,. playrooms, rides)
    • Libraries, archives, museums and cultural centers
    • Tourist destinations (e.g. water parks, beaches, resorts)
    • Travel agencies, tour operators, reservation service and related activities
    • Barbershops and salons
    • Personal care services (e.g. massage parlors, sauna, facial care, waxing, etc.)

    With the easing of some quarantine restrictions and the opening of more industries, Secretary Roque underscored the importance of following the minimum health standards in accordance with the government’s National Action Plan on COVID-19.

    “Habang wala pa pong bakuna, habang wala pang gamot sa COVID-19, magkakaroon po tayo ng new normal,” Roque stressed.

    Testing capacity

    In the same media briefing, Task Force T3 (Test, Trace, and Treat) chief implementer Vince Dizon presented updates on the country’s testing capacity. According to Dizon, the percentage of actual tests per day has increased 74 percent from 5,000 tests (as of May 2) to 8,700 tests (as of May 10). Testing capacity per day also increased 70.6 percent from 8,500 tests (as of May 2) to 14,500 tests (as of May 10).

    Dizon also reported that as of May 14, there are now 30 testing laboratories nationwide, some 10,000 OFWs were already swabbed from May 7-12, there are now 3,000 isolation bed capacity, and that additional isolation facilities are being constructed in Visayas and Mindanao.

    — The Summit Express

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