FAQs: What’s a GCQ bubble?
MANILA, Philippines — A lot of questions have cropped up regarding the general community quarantine (GCQ) bubble that will be enforced in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal from March 22 to April 4.
INQUIRER.net answers some of those questions based on the resolution issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) and the information that presidential spokesperson Harry Roque gave in a press briefing on Sunday.
Are Metro Manila and the four surrounding provinces under lockdown?
No, they are not under lockdown — that is, they won’t be under strict quarantine regulations, according to Roque.
Several establishments will be allowed to operate, especially those allowed under a GCQ status. Public transportation will not be suspended.
Some restrictions implemented during an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or modified enhanced community quarantine status (MECQ) will be adopted.
What is a bubble? What does that mean for travel?
A bubble is an area where entry and exit are restricted— except during emergencies.
Adopted by different sports organizations, like the National Basketball Association in the United States, people entering the bubble are tested for COVID-19 to prevent infection in the area.
In other words, a bubble is aimed at preventing infected people from getting in or getting out.
So travel to and from the bubble — in this case, composed of Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal — will not be allowed unless deemed essential.
Who will be allowed to go in and out of the bubble? And for what purposes?
Those allowed to get in and out of the bubble are authorized persons outside their residences (APORs), which include the following:
- essential workers with valid identification cards
- health and emergency frontline service personnel
- government officials
- accredited humanitarian assistance workers
- persons traveling for humanitarian reasons
- persons going for travel abroad
- persons crossing zones for work or business or going back home
- returning overseas Filipinos and overseas Filipino workers
If you live within the bubble and work outside of it, or vice versa — for example, if you work in Metro Manila and living in Pampanga — you will be granted access provided that you bring supporting documents.
If you are a tourist outside of the bubble and will be returning to your home inside the bubble, you will also be allowed to get in as long as you provide documents stating where you reside.
If I live inside the bubble, will I be allowed to visit relatives or do a quick trip in a nearby area outside the bubble?
No, tourism is not considered an essential activity, Roque said in his briefing.
This also means that the Filipino custom of traveling back to home provinces during the Holy Week holidays will not be allowed.
If I live inside the bubble, will I be allowed to move to another area within the bubble?
Yes, residents of areas in the bubble will be allowed to move freely within it, Roque said.
Are there restrictions on who can move around within the bubble? Where can people go?
Those aged below 18 years and above 65, plus those with comorbidity and immunodeficiency ailments are required to stay in their residence at all times, according to the IATF resolution.
However, exceptions are made if the trip is for indispensable activities — like obtaining essential goods and services or for work-related activities.
Most establishments will be allowed to remain open — except for businesses that attract mass gatherings such as gyms, internet shops, and driving schools.
Under the IATF resolution, dining-in at food outlets is not prohibited, but outdoor dining and takeout and delivery services are allowed.
However, in outdoor dining, only 50 percent of the establishment’s capacity should be made available.
Public gatherings, including those for religious activities, are also prohibited, but leeway is given to weddings, baptisms, and funerals — as long as only 10 people will participate.
Do I need to bring documents with me when leaving a household?
The IATF did not explicitly prescribe this, but it’s good practice to prevent problems.
You may need to bring your company identification card and other government-issued ID cards to prove your that your place of work or residence is in or out of the bubble.
Roque also noted that expired IATF passes — like those given to media personnel, healthcare workers, and other frontline staffers — can still be used while the country is in a state of public health emergency.
Will there be checkpoints again?
According to Roque, there might be checkpoints, which would be announced by the Philippine National Police on Monday, March 22.
However, he said that the checkpoints could be placed only on the outer borders of the bubble — that is, between Bulacan and Pampanga, Cavite and Laguna, Laguna and Quezon, and Rizal and Quezon.
Will there be a curfew?
Metro Manila’s unified curfew scheme, which runs from 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m, will be enforced in the whole bubble.
Will a work-from-home scheme be mandated?
Roque said in his briefing that the private sector was “enjoined” to adopt the alternative working arrangement implemented by the executive branch — that is, requiring only 30 to 50 percent of the employees at the workplace per day.
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