Philippines: Manila Bans Christmas Parties to Curb Coronavirus Spread

People attend the first of nine dawn masses signalling the official start of Christmas at Saint Joseph Parish in Manila on December 16, 2018. - The tradition of dawn masses dates back to the Spanish era and culminates on Christmas Eve and is a belief that anyone who completes the …
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Philippine Interior Secretary Eduardo Año announced on Tuesday that police would enforce a ban on Christmas and other holiday parties this year in the greater Manila area, known as Metro Manila.

Metro Manila, officially the National Capital Region (NCR), remains under General Community Quarantine (GCQ), imposed by the government to limit the spread of coronavirus, Año pointed out in a radio interview with ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo. He added that the government cannot yet allow the capital to ease its quarantine restrictions — to the more relaxed Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) — because this could cause a spike in the number of new coronavirus cases.

“Under GCQ, parties are prohibited. Our NCR, the mayors, have agreed that we are under GCQ. It will relax a bit to revive the economy, but we can’t shift yet to MGCQ,” the interior secretary said.

“The MGCQ is a complete package. If you suddenly shift to that automatic, all activities are under 50 percent capacity. People might have get-togethers. We will end up wasting what we have worked hard for in the past seven months if we experience a surge [of coronavirus cases],” Año explained in English and Filipino.

Metro Manila has been under GCQ since June 1. The quarantine allows for most industries to remain open. Public transportation may continue operating under GCQ, though at a reduced capacity. Philippine Health Secretary Francisco Duque III announced on September 28 that GCQ would remain in place in Metro Manila through October 31.

“Since briefly tightening restrictions again in August [to a stricter Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ)] to help relieve the strain on the healthcare system, Metro Manila has seen a downward trend in new infections [under GCQ], authorities and health experts have noted,” CNN Philippines reported on September 28.

Under GCQ, Metro Manila recorded a decline of over 50 percent in its daily new coronavirus cases in late September compared to five weeks earlier, a University of the Philippines study published on September 26 revealed.

The health experts quoted in the study “were quick to stress that the government should still exercise caution when easing restrictions as the country could record up to over a hundred thousand more infections in the next month,” CNN Philippines noted at the time.

Some Metro Manila mayors also supported an extended GCQ in the capital for another month. San Juan City Mayor Francis Zamora told CNN Philippines at the time that authorities needed to sustain hard-won improvements, such as the lowered daily rate of new coronavirus cases.

“Even if we retain the GCQ status, it is possible to still slowly increase the operational capacity, meaning the number of people that can work, the number of customers that establishments can allow to enter. So, these are now being prepared,” Zamora explained.

The Philippines currently has the second-highest number of coronavirus cases in Southeast Asia. The nation reported 360,775 infections and 6,690 deaths from the Chinese coronavirus at press time on Tuesday.

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