Just last week, the national government placed Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal—collectively dubbed “NCR+”—under a special quarantine “bubble” where stricter health and safety measures were put in place to help reduce the spread of Covid-19 in the area.
Unfortunately, it looks like things have only gotten worse. With the virus’ transmission rates still on an upward trend, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) has reverted NCR+ to the strictest form of quarantine. From March 29 and extended until at least April 11, the area will be under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
What does this mean for everyday citizens? This is what we know of so far.
Who is (and isn’t) allowed to travel during the ECQ?
Under ECQ, all residents are required to observe strict home quarantine. Only travel for essential tasks like buying groceries, food, medicine, and other basic needs is allowed. Returning overseas Filipinos and persons returning home will also be allowed to travel.
Children below 18 and adults over 65 years old, as well as pregnant women and individuals with existing health risks, are supposed to stay at home at all times.
Is there a curfew?
Uniform curfew hours (6:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m.) are being adopted across NCR+. Only Authorized Persons Outside of Residence (APORs) are exempt from curfew hours. This includes essential workers, healthcare and emergency personnel, government officials, and humanitarian workers.
Can I travel for leisure within NCR+?
No. All travel for leisure has been prohibited, and all non-essential establishments have been closed.
Essential stores like supermarkets, hardware supply, banks, and pharmacies are allowed to stay open in malls and shopping centers. Restaurants will only be allowed to continue takeout and delivery operations.
Do I need a special travel pass or quarantine pass to go out for essential tasks?
No. In a televised press briefing on March 27, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque clarified that travel passes (like the ones used in the last ECQ) will not be necessary. APORs will be asked to present a valid ID at checkpoints.
Are any mass gatherings allowed?
Gatherings held outdoors are limited to 10 persons only, and indoor gatherings with anyone from outside the immediate household are not allowed. Religious gatherings—including previously approved Holy Week activities—have also been suspended.
Are staycations within the bubble allowed?
Following the ban on non-essential movement, previously approved staycations within NCR+ have now also been suspended. The Department of Tourism (DOT) has also released a set of guidelines for bookings and hotels affected by the ECQ.
Can I leave NCR+ to go home to a different province?
If you’re an essential traveler, It depends on where you’re going. Any inter-regional or international travel from NCR+ will be subject to the local travel guidelines of your destination. Check with the concerned local IATF or international border control for more information.
Travelers who need to cancel or rebook their affected flights can get in touch with their flight provider: Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific. Some airlines have already announced what options are available (like this one by Cebu Pacific).
Will public transportation still be available?
Yes. Public transportation via land (road and rail), air, and sea are still allowed to operate at limited capacity. The Department of Transportation (DOTr) released a guide to available transport under ECQ, which you can access here.
Are there any changes in health protocols?
Everyone is still required to follow health and safety protocols: wear a mask (or two) and a face shield, follow minimum health standards even at home, and maintain social distancing when out for essential tasks. Other than that, nothing in terms of protocol has changed for everyday citizens.
NOTE: This article has been edited to reflect the most recent information as of 03 April 2021.