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Hard GCQ? NCR Plus? Confusing Pandemic Terms and What They Mean

The IATF has proposed several new guidelines to help contain COVID numbers

The terms that describe our lockdown levels have been confusing at best.

A little over a year since major cities across the Philippines—including Metro Manila and its surrounding areas—went into lockdown, the IATF has proposed several new guidelines to help contain COVID numbers. 


There has been a surge in the number of reported COVID cases, which started early this month. Cases have reached as high as 8,000, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to almost 700,000. The total number of individuals who have died due to the virus has reached 13,000.


The rise in cases, coupled with emerging strains of the virus, has called for a re-examination of COVID guidelines, including curfew hours, city-wide liquor bans, restaurant capacities, and more. Cinemas, arcades, and driving schools are now once again prohibited after being approved to re-open last February


Over the past week, a bevy of acronyms have cropped up on social media, as new guidelines from the government began to circulate. We’ve got NCR Plus, hard GCQ (general community quarantine), and soft MECQ (modified enhanced community quarantine). The terms have brought about more confusion than clarification, and have even been poked fun at online. 


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But what do these terms mean—or try to mean—and what are the IATF’s updated guidelines? We’ve also rounded up old acronyms in case you’ve forgotten them, and in the event that they will be implemented again.


NCR+. “NCR Plus” is supposed to mean cities in the National Capital Region, as well as its neighboring provinces Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna, and Cavite. Travel in and out of these merged areas has been prohibited since Monday, March 22, and is in effect until April 4. 


Hard GCQ. Like eggs (?), our levels of community quarantine can now be classified as either “hard” or “soft.” Proposed by the UP Octa Research Group, “hard general community quarantine” hopes to discourage social gatherings and indoor dining, implement more work-from-home setups, and require quarantine passes for those who need to physically report for work.  


Soft MECQ. Also proposed by OCTA, this is a kind of MECQ (modified enhanced community quarantine) where there is transportation, support for workers, and open establishments. 



MECQ. MECQ stands for “modified enhanced community quarantine.” When this was first implemented in May last year, MECQ meant that there would be limited movement of people to get essential services and go to work, limited transportation, and the suspension of physical classes in all levels. This restriction was in place until the end of May. 


ECQ. ECQ means “enhanced community quarantine” and was the first kind of lockdown that was implemented across Luzon. It meant no movement, no economic activity (except utility services, food, water, and other essential sectors), no public transport, and no physical classes. It lasted from March 15 to April 13. 


GCQ. GCQ, which has been in effect since the majority of last year, stands for “general community quarantine.” Under GCQ, almost all industries are allowed to operate up to 75% of their capacity, public transportation resumed as long as social distancing was implemented, and face-to-face learning continued to be suspended.  However, since COVID cases began to surge again, the government has called for stricter implementation of this lockdown level.


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What are the new guidelines of these stricter GCQ measures?


A 24-hour curfew will be in effect for minors 17 and below, pregnant women, and “individuals with comorbidity.” This applies to the entirety of Metro Manila. 


A curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. will be implemented for everyone, excluding essential workers. This also applies to all of Metro Manila.


A liquor ban in Malabon, Mandaluyog, Manila, Muntinlupa, Navotas, Parañaque, Pateros, Quezon City, San Juan, and Valenzuela. End dates vary—San Juan’s liquor ban is in effect until further notice; Quezon City’s, Mandaluyong’s, Pateros’, Parañaque’s, and Valenzuela’s is until March 31; Malabon’s is until April 3; and Manila’s and Muntinlupa’s is until April 4. 


Various recreational establishments are not allowed to open in Las Piñas, Makati, Pasig, and Valenzuela. No cinemas in Makati and Las Piñas; no theatres, karaoke bars, and night clubs in Makati; no arcades, libraries, museums, and tourist attractions in Pasig; and no gyms, spas, and fitness studios in Valenzuela. Pateros has also prohibited activities at the Garden of Memories Memorial Park until March 31. 


Holy Week services are canceled in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal. The new rules approved by the president prohibits religious gatherings. 


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