TRADE Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said it is likely that restrictions in the capital region Metro Manila will be further eased by January if the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) case numbers continue to decline.

“With the continuing good numbers of Metro Manila and other nearby areas, we’re hoping that the numbers continue (to fall) even during the December Christmas season so that January, there’s a likelihood that we can be a modified GCQ (general community quarantine),” he said in an online briefing on Wednesday, referring to most relaxed lockdown level. 

Mr. Lopez said the decision will be based on the daily number of active COVID-19 cases and recoveries as well as case growth trends over two-week periods.

“If we are able to manage this improvement in our health statistics, certainly there will be more openness as to the community quarantine,” said the Trade chief, who also announced on Wednesday that he tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday.

If Metro Manila remains under the general quarantine by January, he said restrictions based on age could be relaxed to improve retail consumption.

Areas under GCQ until end-December are Metro Manila, Batangas, Iloilo City, Tacloban City, Lanao del Sur, Iligan, Davao City, and Davao del Norte. The rest of the country are under modified GCQ.

Under current guidelines, those between 15 and 65 years old are allowed to go out of their homes, although local governments can set higher age limits for minors and impose other localized rules.

Mr. Lopez, in a Viber message to reporters, said he has been in isolation since his exposure to a COVID-19 positive person on Tuesday last week.

“I had myself swabbed Sunday after exposure last Tuesday from a person who tested positive,” he said, adding that he is experiencing no symptoms.

The Department of Health (DoH) reported 1,387 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, bringing the country’s total to 444,164.

The death toll rose by seven to 8,677 while recoveries climbed to 408,942 with 156 more patients who have gotten well, according to its daily bulletin.

There were 26,545 active cases, 85.2% of which were mild, 6.6% did not show symptoms, 5.2% were critical, 2.7% were severe, and 0.31% were moderate.

Batangas reported the highest number of new cases at 71, followed by Quezon City at 70, Davao del Norte at 64, Benguet at 59, and Quezon province at 57.

The DoH, meanwhile, called on private hospitals to comply with the prescribed COVID-19 bed allocation under Administrative Order No. 2020-016 in preparation for a potential surge in cases during the holidays.

Under the order, public hospitals are directed to allocate at least 30% of their bed capacity for coronavirus patients while 20% for private hospitals .

The DoH said it has recorded a nationwide average of 30% bed allocation in public hospitals and 13% in private hospitals.— Jenina P. Ibañez and Vann Marlo M. Villegas