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Metro Manila may be placed under the most lenient quarantine level in November if its residents observe health and safety protocols designed to contain COVID-19, according to a report by Philippine Star.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said the capital region’s virus reproductive or “r-naught” rate – which indicates how contagious COVID-19 is has improved.

“If we continue to wear face masks, wash our hands frequently and avoid crowded places, it’s possible,” Roque told radio station dzBB in Filipino last Saturday when asked whether it is possible for Metro Manila to be downgraded to the most lenient modified general community quarantine (MGCQ).

“Our r-naught rate is less than one percent. Before, it was very high. That means, the number of persons who catch the virus from positive cases is now lower than one. Maybe we can achieve that,” he added.

Roque said advertisements encouraging the public to observe health protocols have helped improve Metro Manila’s COVID-19 numbers.

Asked whether more people would be allowed to attend the traditional midnight masses, Roque said it would depend on an area’s attack rate and hospital bed capacity.

The holding of midnight masses, or simbang gabi, starts on Dec. 16 and ends on Dec. 24.

“If we see improvements, they can be downgraded to MGCQ,” Roque said.

“Most of the areas in the Philippines are now under MGCQ. Only Metro Manila and a few cities and provinces are under GCQ (general community quarantine). Placing more areas under MGCQ is not farfetched. With regard to Metro Manila, it depends on the compliance with wearing masks, frequent handwashing, and physical distancing,” he added.

Metro Manila, which accounts for more than a third of the Philippines’ economic output, remains the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the Philippines. More than half of the country’s 356,000 infections were reported in the capital region.
Cabinet Secretary and Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) vice chairman Karlo Nograles said it is too early to say whether Metro Manila would be placed under a more lenient quarantine classification. He, however, said it is not possible for the capital region to be downgraded to “new normal” from GCQ.

“If ever, it should transition first to MGCQ. In fact, we have not declared any area to be under ‘new normal.’ Let’s do it gradually,” Nograles said in a live online session last Saturday.

Nograles said the IATF may come up with a “soft” recommendation on quarantine classifications in the last week of October. The recommendation will then be submitted to President Duterte for approval.

“I cannot say whether I am confident that NCR (National Capital Region) can be downgraded to MGCQ. But the positivity rate, r-naught has gone down. It’s a balancing act,” the Cabinet official said.

Nograles said the government has been reopening the economy regardless of quarantine classification so more people can return to work.

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