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MANILA, May 11 (Mabuhay) —  The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases has placed Cagayan, Apayao, and Benguet under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Malacañang said Monday.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said under IATF Resolution 114-C issued on May 9, the three provinces will be under MECQ from May 10 to 23, 2021.

“The risk-level classification of the aforementioned provinces shall be without prejudice to their reclassification as may be warranted and the declaration of localized Enhanced Community Quarantine in critical areas,” the IATF Resolution read.

MECQ protocol bans non-essential travels and partially shuts down non-essential businesses and services.

Baguio City, however, will not be included under the MECQ areas even if the city is located in Benguet province.

Prior to the addition of three provinces, areas under MECQ until May 14 include National Capital Region, Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, Laguna, City of Santiago in Isabela, Abra, Quirino and Ifugao.

The Philippines has 61,294 active COVID-19 cases as of May 9.

Prof. Ranjit Rye of OCTA Research earlier said the country is not yet ready for the easing of quarantine restrictions.

“We can understand if the government will have discussions on extending the MECQ because we need some more time to heal, and we need some more time for government interventions,” Rye said during the Laging Handa briefing.

“We will support whatever the government decides. What we’re suggesting is caution. What we’re suggesting is a calibrated slow exit strategy so we can sustain the trends,” he added. (MNS)