General Community Quarantine as the “New Normal” in the Philippines while waiting for the Vaccine

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Social Distancing maintained in Philippines

For more than a month, a lot of things has changed and everyone is still adjusting with the sudden lockdown in many areas in the country. However,  many quarantine laws would be eased, some non-essential companies will be permitted to reopen, and the so-called “new standard” would remain in effect in places where the number of COVID-19 cases is considered small to moderate.

President Rodrigo Duterte declared that when the Luzon-wide strengthened community quarantine ends on April 30 some provinces in the region, including some areas in Luzon, will be put under ‘general community quarantine’ or GCQ.

Abra, Ilocos Norte, La Union, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Marinduque, Camarines Sur, Aklan, Capiz, Samar, Western Samar, Zamboanga Del Sur, Lanao Del Norte, Misamis Occidental, Misamis Oriental, North Cotabato, South Cotabato, and Maguindanao are yet to be evaluated.

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The task force took into account how quickly the number of infections doubles in an environment, as well as hospitals’ capacity to accommodate a potential increase of patients who would need urgent care if regulations are eased.

Provinces and cities are then shaded green as low-risk areas, despite minimal to no infections; yellow to orange for various degrees under moderate risk — where they are either near to stopping or past epidemic mode; and red for high-risk regions where the virus spreads quickly.

General community quarantine hoisted over cities identified as low-risk areas will be the new standard at this time before the current 2019 coronavirus vaccine (COVID-19) is created.

In fact, President Duterte accepted the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Disease Management (IATF) to expand enhanced Population quarantine in high-risk areas, like Metro Manila, to at least 15th of May.

Here are the considerations to be discussed in implementing the GCQ:

1. Selected employees are permitted to go into work in non-essential facilities. Electronics, distribution, production, e-commerce, shipping, repair, servicing, and housing firms can restore complete operations as long as they meet with basic safety requirements such as physical distancing. Many that work in banking, Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), and Non-Leisure Trade and Services that have half of their staff operating from home while the other 50 percent work on site. Schools, shopping centres, sports centers, games and leisure infrastructure will stay closed.

2. Kids (0 to 20 years of age), older people (60 years of age and above), and individuals with high-risk health conditions are not permitted to leave their homes

3. Non-leisure shops are permitted to open again in malls. Malls can restrict shoppers’ access and make obligatory temperature tests and use of masks and alcohol compulsory. They were even advised to change the air conditioning temperature up and avoid providing free WiFi inside the malls.

4.  Priority building projects should resume.

5. Nonworkers, with the exception of babies, the aged, the disabled, are permitted to buy food and go out and use critical services

6. Public transportation should run at reduced capacity to ensure social distance

7. Local units of government shall impose curfew for non-workers

8. Airports and ports should work only for unimpeded goods distribution. The adjustment will not be easy but the government is hoping that these considerations will not give quick transmission of the virus to the people since the things above are one of the important livelihoods for Filipinos.

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