Vigan City now under relaxed GCQ, but you still cannot go out for non-essential reasons

(UPDATED 2:01pm: Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, in a tv interview this morning said that religious activities are now prohibited even under GCQ after local governments protested the decision. Since Mayor Medina noted that national guidelines supersede the local EO, it is assumed that such activities are also now banned in the city.)

VIGAN CITY — You may now go jogging in the morning, have a haircut at your favorite salon, or maybe go back to work but otherwise you are still advised to stay at home.

The quarantine status of Vigan as of today has been relaxed to general community quarantine (GCQ), but residents of the Heritage City who have been confined most of the time inside their homes since the Luzon lockdown on March 16, are finding out that many of the travel restrictions under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) are still in place.  

As announced by Malacañang on April 24, areas not considered as high-risk for COVID-19 outbreak are to be placed under GCQ starting today until May 15, after which the status may be further relaxed if no new infections are observed.

With the exception of Pangasinan, all provinces in Region 1 including Ilocos Sur were not included in the high-risk list and, therefore, are now automatically covered under GCQ.

But as Vigan City mayor Juan Carlo Medina was quick to point out in a press briefing yesterday evening, the city’s GCQ status does not mean everyone is now allowed to venture out of their homes.

During the briefing, the city government released Executive Order 022 series 2020 clarifying the guidelines for the implementation of the GCQ within the city. The guidelines have been disseminated to concerned agencies and are ready for implementation today, the mayor said.

Under the guidelines, the same travel restrictions under ECQ still apply with some tweaks.

Persons 21 years old and below, or 60 years old and above, persons with health problems, and pregnant women are still not allowed out of their homes. Those who reside with these vulnerable persons, are also required to remain in their homes EXCEPT if they need to go out to buy essential goods and services or to work in permitted industries and offices.

Persons may only leave their homes under the following conditions of essential travel:

  • Obtaining basic necessities such as food, medical supplies, and supplies for the essential upkeep, maintenance, and functioning of the household;
  • Providing care or assistance to elderly or vulnerable persons by dropping shopped goods or medications at their door;
  • Travel to the workplace for those with jobs that cannot be done remotely;
  • Jogging within the barangay between 5-7 am and 5-7pm, provided that social distancing is observed;
  • To seek medical assistance;
  • To donate blood;
  • Leaving the house to avoid injury, illness, or escape the risk of harm;
  • Taking pets to the veterinarian in cases of emergency treatment;
  • Attending funerals of immediate family or household members, provided there is a restricted number of people in attendance to ensure social distancing and that none of those attending is showing COVID-19 symptoms.

To discourage people from going out of their homes unnecessarily during GCQ, some businesses and activities are still not allowed under GCQ. Among those banned include:

  • Gyms and fitness studios
  • Entertainment, such as cinemas, theaters, concerts, festivals, carnivals, conventions
  • Pubs and bars
  • Trade shows, conferences, workshops
  • Politically-related mass gatherings
  • Sporting events such as trainings, games, tournaments and championships
  • Libraries and museums
  • Gambling and betting activities
  • Leisure travel and tours

Some businesses that were ordered closed under ECQ are also now allowed to operate, including barbershops and salons provided they maintain strict health procedures including requiring masks, and maintaining physical distance between customers.

It was also revealed during the press briefing that pass slips are no longer required but persons venturing out must bring proof of residence and age.

Although the barangay checkpoints stay in place, Mayor Medina has ordered the barangays to remove the barricades blocking the streets in anticipation of the increase in vehicular traffic due to the resumption of public transport. He further advised the barangay officials to monitor the movements of their constituents to stop them from unnecessarily venturing out of their homes.

Curfew hours from 8pm to 5am continue to be enforced unless changed by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).

Medina clarified that should the national government release new guidelines contradicting the local EO, the national guidelines will supersede that of the city.