Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte confirmed last night that restrictions in the National Capital Region, which includes Metro Manila, as well as four nearby provinces would be eased back from Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) to General Community Quarantine (GCQ) from Wednesday 19 August.
The decision, based upon recommendations by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), is believed to be more about rebooting the economy than any significant improvement in stifling the spread of COVID-19. Another 3,314 new cases were reported across the Philippines on Monday, taking the national total to 164,474.
The government tightened quarantine controls in the National Capital Region earlier this month to MECQ – the second highest level of restrictions – at the request of frontline health workers, with the Philippines’ health system struggling to cope with the huge numbers of new COVID-19 cases.
“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 on Monday.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque added, “Almost all industries will reopen, except for mass gatherings like entertainment and amusement for kids.”
Manila’s casinos will remain closed to the public, but it is likely they will resume the same “dry run” operations previously permitted under GCQ restrictions.
The three Entertainment City IRs – City of Dreams Manila, Okada Manila and Solaire – along with Resorts World Manila, were all granted permission to run small trials of gaming operations for invited guests from June. Those trials were placed on pause on 3 August as Manila returned to the stricter MECQ.
In its 2Q20 results announcement, City of Dreams Manila said this was “a dry run/trial run of its gaming and hospitality operations with only a limited number of participants strictly adhering to the new guidelines on social distancing and hygiene and sanitation procedures imposed by the Philippine government.
“The PAGCOR-sanctioned dry run/trial run aimed to address all potential operational concerns to achieve a seamless reopening for City of Dreams Manila.”