MANILA, Jan 30 (Mabuhay) — A target for the Philippines to shift to the least stringent quarantine level in the first quarter of the year remains “doable,” the trade department said on Friday despite local cases of the new, more contagious COVID-19 variant.

The health department earlier said the government was eyeing a modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), the lowest of 4 lockdown levels, for the entire country between January and March 2021.

“Nagkaroon nga lang nitong COVID variant kaya talagang mas nag-extra pag-iingat ang mga desisyon recently, even on the age restriction,” he said in a press briefing.

The inter-agency task force leading the country’s pandemic response deferred this week a move lowering age restrictions on going out, with 10- to 14-year-olds supposed to be allowed to visit commercial establishments from Feb. 1 in MGCQ areas.

The IATF was also “unanimous” in stopping further shifts to MGCQ next month due to the new variant, said Lopez.

“Baka kumalat kasi at madiskaril pa ang ating efforts na napakaganda na in terms of continuous lowering of COVID cases month on month. Pag-aralan lang muna ito. And malalaman natin depende sa magiging numero,” he said.

Metro Manila, the Cordilleras, and 6 other areas will be under general community quarantine, a step above MGCQ, in February.

Lopez noted that last year, only 39 percent of survey respondents wanted the government to balance the economy with safeguarding public health. This figure recently rose to 73 percent, he said.

A small working group is studying which sectors, mostly tourism related, could be further opened, said Lopez.

“Itutuloy natin iyong dahan-dahang pag-o-open lalo na sa mga safe activity,” he added. (MNS)

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