MANILA, June 22 (Mabuhay) — Malacañang on Monday said lifting the community quarantine in place in various forms across the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic is unlikely within the year.

At a press briefing, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said such decision has to be made by the  Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), the government’s policy-making body  in addressing the pandemic.

“Sa tingin ko po, malabo pa po iyan [I don’t think that is going to happen this year],” he said.

The Department of Health earlier said the lifting of community quarantine across the country is a “long-term goal.”

“That’s not going to happen now or next month,” said Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire in a separate press briefing.

“We’re discussing it because we want to have safeguards in place so that we can avoid the risk of having further transmission.”

In an interview earlier in the day, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said community quarantine can be lifted once at least 50 million Filipinos have been vaccinated.

“That is why the range is at 50 million to 70 million,” Nograles said.

The Philippines has vaccinated eight million people against COVID-19 so far, of which two million already completed two doses.

The government is eyeing to vaccinate 58 million people or 70% of the population of Metro Manila and its nearby provinces, as well as Metro Cebu and Davao, to achieve “herd immunity.”   (MNS)