The Philippines will now be easing its restrictions in the Greater Manila region after going through a lengthened lockdown due to a surge in COVID-19 cases back in March, the Palace announced Thursday (May 13).

The loosening of regulations in the NCR Plus bubble – Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, Laguna – comes after a decrease in the tally of daily coronavirus infections recorded as of late.

From the flexible modified enhance community quarantine (MECQ), the quarantine classification will now transition to a ‘heightened’ general community quarantine (GCQ), which will last for two weeks starting May 15 until May 31. 

Metro Manila Council head and Parañaque Mayor Edwin Olivarez said the changing of classification will allow more people to avail themselves of indoor dine-in services, however, it will further limit the number of people attending religious gatherings.

“Ang consensus po talaga ng ating Metro Manila Council na mag-relax po tayo ng kaunti from MECQ to GCQ pero with heightened restrictions,” Olivarez told ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo

In line with the new classification, restaurants will be allowed to open indoor dining capacity at 20 percent while outdoor dining can accommodate 50 percent of seating capacity.

Apart from this, tourism destinations can now open at 30 percent capacity, specifically in the NCR Plus regions.

Meanwhile, the Council chose to cut back on religious gatherings and funerals – only allowing 10 percent seating capacity. Beforehand, 30 percent was allowed.

“On religious gatherings, we brought it back to 10 percent. It used to be 30 percent. Kailangan lang po strict compliance itong heightened restriction,” Olivarez stressed.

Only individuals aged 18 years old to 65 years old will be allowed to go out during this period. 

Essential travel in and out of the NCR bubble will be allowed as well. 

Although restrictions have been significantly relieved, the government has strengthened its border lockdown. The national government has announced a temporary ban on foreign arrivals from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Oman, and the UAE due to the more infectious variants of COVID-19. 

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Image credit:  Lisa Marie David via Getty Images