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Palace: Duterte likely to place entire Philippines under MGCQ by March 1

President Rodrigo Duterte may approve the recommendation to place the entire country under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) by March 1, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Friday.

“Nagkasundo na rin po ang mga alkalde at ang IATF na mag-MGCQ by March 1 kaya baka sumang-ayon na rin ang ating Presidente,” Roque said on state-run PTV-4.

The IAFT is the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, the government's policy-making body in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Wednesday night, nine out of 17 Metro Manila mayors voted to recommend placing the region under MGCQ from the current general community quarantine (GCQ) by March 1 upon recommendations from economic managers.

The League of Provinces of the Philippines (LPP) has likewise said it is in favor of placing the entire country under MGCQ in March provided that governors are authorized to impose lockdowns or change their quarantine status if the need arises.

Roque said the IATF has amended the Omnibus Guidelines on mass gatherings under GCQ after the voting of the Metro Manila mayors favoring MGCQ.

Aside from eased restrictions on mass gatherings, the IATF also mandated banks and financial institutions to provide alternative modes of validation for elderly pensioners amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Roque, however, clarified that the eased restrictions on mass gathering does not mean expanding the age bracket of those who are allowed to go out.

“Hindi pa po covered yung mga 5 to 75 [age bracket]. Pero ang [IATF] Resolution na ‘yun eh para maging uniform lang kung ano ‘yung industriyang bukas dahil alam natin at inaasahan natin na mag MGCQ na ang Metro Manila at ang buong Pilipinas,” Roque said.

“Ibig sabihin aalisin na natin yung mga special na mga rules para sa Metro Manila at mga ibang lugar na GCQ. Isahang rules na lang ngayon. Kung ano ang pinapayagang magbukas sa MGCQ, eh siyempre ‘yan na po yung pupuwedeng magbukas, kasama po diyan yung religious gatherings at 50%, yung mga sinehan at subject dun sa  capacity na sasabihin ng ating mga lokal na pamahalaan, yung mga parks, amusement parks,” he added.

Roque said that the President is expected to make a decision by February 22, but he will make the announcement of a possible transition to eased quarantine protocol before the end of February.

The World Health Organization on Thursday warned the Philippines against the proposed nationwide relaxation of the community quarantine, citing the likely upsurge in COVID-19 cases with the UK variant and with the start of he vaccination still uncertain.

"If we now go for large scale relaxation of measures given the current, the existing situation and the circulation of variants and the fact that it will still be many months before a large proportion of Filipinos are vaccinated, we may witness a situation where there will be an upsurge of cases," Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO's country representative in the Philippines, said. --KBK, GMA News