Gov’t looks at partially reopening ‘NCR Plus’ in phases
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is looking at reopening “low-risk” business sectors, saying that the National Capital Region (NCR) and four neighboring provinces cannot remain on lockdown much longer.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, however, did not reply to questions about how his department had determined which sectors were low-risk amid the emergence of new variants that had been contributing to the surge in COVID-19 cases.
In a TV interview at One News on Thursday, Lopez was asked to react to the possibility of extending enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the NCR and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal for one to two more weeks. The so-called “NCR Plus” area has been on lockdown for almost two weeks.
“What we’re saying is we can’t also continue to be [under] ECQ for a long time. That’s why what we’re looking at is a gradual movement toward reopening [those sectors] that are low-risk,” he said.
“So what we’re saying is we already have a system. We have an ECQ, which allowed only the very essential [businesses to remain] open. Once we get to a modified ECQ (MECQ), which is the next lighter or deescalated community quarantine, there will again be other sectors that will be opened like under manufacturing,” he added.
Lopez was asked after the TV interview, through Viber, how the DTI established which business sectors were low-risk and if these were reevaluated given the new variants and surge in new COVID-19 infections.
“There is a list of high-risk activities from international and local health experts,” he replied, without elaborating.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) will reopen starting next week 60 routes for traditional jeepneys and 190 others for provincial buses entering Metro Manila to stop “colorum” vehicles from “smuggling” travelers in and out of NCR.
With the reopening of the routes, around 1,800 jeepneys and 2,600 provincial buses would return to the streets despite quarantine restrictions but subject to the approval of local governments in affected areas.
In a press briefing on Thursday, the DOTr asked the public not to patronize colorum vehicles after 80 of their passengers who traveled from Bicol Region to NCR were found positive for COVID-19.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade earlier called on transport and law enforcement agencies, as well as local governments, to prevent the smuggling of travelers who had not undergone COVID-19 testing, from the provinces to the NCR Plus bubble. —WITH A REPORT FROM MARIEJO S. RAMOS
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