President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday said he is considering placing the entire country under the least restrictive modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) as soon as the country gets enough vaccines for the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
However, Duterte said he will not still allow in-person or face-to-face classes to resume even with the availability of Covid-19 vaccines.
Duterte, who personally witnessed the arrival of the initial 600,000 vaccine doses of China-donated Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccines to the Philippines, said there is a need to reopen the economy because many Filipinos are suffering.
“I am considering it, actually. Buksan ko na (I’ll open it) because there are two things that are really bugging us, it’s the economy and Covid-19. Our economy is really down, as in down so the earlier na mabilisan itong vaccine (we can speed up vaccine inoculation), the better,” he said in a press conference at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City.
It was unclear when he would downgrade the current quarantine status to MGCQ but noted that it would be when vaccines are “available to anybody.”
“Kung nakita ko na marami nang vaccine, open ko na lahat (If I see that there are a lot of vaccines, I’ll open everything)…People have to eat, people have to work, people have to pay for their upkeep and the only way to do it is to open the economy and for businesses to regrow. Without that, patay talaga (we’re dead),” he added.
However, Duterte said he would not allow yet face-to-face classes even in areas with low risk of Covid-19 infection.
“Huwag muna (Not yet). Not now. I cannot make that decision. It will place the children in jeopardy. I am not ready to lose the lives of our young people, our children,” he said.
Asked when he expects the country to reach pre-pandemic levels, Duterte said herd immunity might be reached about two years from now.
“Maybe early year 2023. Not 2022. Ito ngayon hanggang katapusan ng buwan paspasan tayo (Now until the end of the month, we will have to things up). Maybe in the first or second quarter or year 2023,” he said
Last Saturday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Metro Manila will remain under general community quarantine (GCQ) in March.
Roque said GCQ would also be imposed in Apayao, Baguio City, Kalinga, Mt. Province, Batangas, Tacloban City, Iligan City, Davao City, and Lanao del Sur.
The rest of the country would stay under the least restrictive MGCQ from March 1 to 31, he added.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), as well as the Metro Manila mayors, initially recommended the imposition of the most relaxed MGCQ in the entire Philippines in March.
Duterte, however, turned down the proposed nationwide shift to MGCQ until the government starts the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccines.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles earlier said the President is taking a “step-by-step” approach to the plan to place the entire country under MGCQ.