Government releases MECQ guidelines



MANILA, Philippines, May 14 ------ Book stores as well as shops selling clothing, toys and office supplies can reopen, but not barber shops, salons and massage parlors. Golf and tennis can resume, but not contact sports. These are some of the guidelines released by the government yesterday for Metro Manila and other “highrisk” areas that will be placed under a modified enhanced community quarantine or MECQ by May 16. The MECQ is in line with the World Health Organization’s warning against rushing the lifting of lockdowns in areas with high cases of coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19. The MECQ is more relaxed than ECQ, but has more restrictions compared with the general community quarantine (GCQ). Some forms of private transportation will also be allowed under MECQ as long as they comply with safety protocols. “We have to be flexible. We have to do it gradually, slowly. If the number of cases increase, we would go back to ECQ,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said at a press briefing yesterday. “We started with ECQ, we will shift to modified ECQ before going to GCQ. After that, we will go to modified GCQ before moving to the new normal. We won’t experience the normal we knew before COVID-19 until there is no vaccine or medicine,” he added. Everyone should stay home under the MECQ, except frontliners and those who are buying essentials. Limited outdoor exercise will be allowed such as outdoor walk, jogging, running and biking but safety protocols should be observed like wearing of masks and two-meter distancing. Limited contact sports like golf and tennis are allowed in GCQ areas. Small gatherings, including religious ones, are allowed in areas under MECQ if they have five participants or less. In GCQ areas, the maximum number of participants is ten. No inter-island travel and domestic flights will be permitted under MECQ, but biking and non-motorized transport are encouraged. International flights are limited to those carrying overseas Filipino workers or returning Filipinos. In GCQ areas, public transport and inter-island travel to places under GCQ are allowed as long as health protocols and strict safe distancing are observed. School premises will remain closed in MECQ areas. For places that have shifted to GCQ, schools can employ a skeleton work force to process requirements of students and to prepare for graduation and for next semester. A skeleton onsite staff will man government agencies while other personnel will work from home in MECQ areas. For GCQ areas, government offices will adopt alternative arrangements like 40-hour or four-day work week. Public shuttle will be the only mode of public transportation under MECQ. Private transportation permitted under MECQ are company shuttles (50 percent capacity only), personal vehicles for workers in permitted sectors and activities (two persons per row), bicycle (one person only), motorcycle (one person only) and e-scooter (one person only). All modes of public transport will be permitted in GCQ areas, but in a reduced capacity to observe safe physical distancing. All private transportation are also permitted in places that have shifted to GCQ. The government also issued guidelines for public and private construction works in MECQ areas. Only workers aged 21 to 59 years old and without pre-existing health conditions are allowed to work. They will have to undergo medical tests funded by contractors before they are deployed to construction sites. Workers will be housed in barracks during the duration of the project. There should also be segregated facilities to ensure social distancing. Workers should be transported using private shuttles while onsite employees should be given quarantine passes. Supervisors should ensure safe distancing in and daily disinfection of construction sites. Errands outside the construction site should be minimized while all personnel returning from the outside should undergo quarantine. Deliveries and disposal of materials should be handled by separate teams. All employees should also wear personal protective equipment. A safety officer should be tapped to ensure compliance of health protocols. All Category I sectors – agriculture, forestry and fisheries; manufacturing of essential goods such as food, hygiene, medicines, medical products and pet food; hospitals and clinics; essential retail such as groceries and drugstores; laundry shops; food preparation, water refilling, logistics service providers; delivery services; utilities such as power and water; repair and installation of machinery and equipment; telecommunications, energy companies, gasoline stations, construction workers accredited to work on health facilities; manufacturing firms and suppliers of construction products and media establishments – are allowed in all quarantine scenarios, including MECQ. Category II sectors that are allowed under MECQ are cement and steel, mining and quarrying, electronic commerce companies, postal, courier and delivery services, export-oriented companies (point-to-point shuttles); repair of computers and personal and household goods; housing services activities; special purpose accommodation for healthcare workers, overseas Filipino workers, workers in permitted sectors and other people required to undergo quarantine; business process outsourcing (work-from-home, on-site, or near site accommodation or point-to-point shuttles); banks, money transfer services, microfinance institutions, pawnshops and credit cooperatives and capital markets. (For partial operations under category 2, see table) Category III sectors allowed under MECQ are rental and leasing other than real estate (e.g. vehicles, equipment for permitted sectors); employment activities. The only Category III sector not allowed under MECQ are barbershops and salons. Sectors that fall under Category IV cannot operate in any quarantine scenario because they are considered non-essential. Businesses that belong to this category are gym, fitness studios and sports facilities; entertainment industries like cinemas, theaters and karaoke bars; kid amusement industries, libraries, archives, museums and cultural centers; tourist destinations like water parks, resorts and beaches; travel agencies, tour operators, reservation service and related activities and personal care services like massage parlors, sauna, facial care and waxing. Source: philstar.com