MANILA, June 11 (Mabuhay) — Some 24 million people in Metro Manila and surrounding Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal provinces may shift to a looser quarantine status by next week, as COVID-19 figures in the area improve, Malacañang said on Thursday.

The area that government calls NCR Plus is under general community quarantine (GCQ) “with restrictions” until June 15.

The capital region’s utilization of intensive care units has gone down to about 53 percent. This is among the considerations for an area’s quarantine level, noted Palace spokesman Harry Roque.

“The numbers are looking good,” he said in a press briefing.

“Based on the figures Metro Manila Plus might be looking at a de-escalation. It may not be to MGCQ, but it could be to ordinary GCQ,” added the official.

GCQ is the second loosest quarantine level, a notch above modified GCQ, the loosest of 4 lockdown levels. More businesses reopen and travel restrictions are eased the more lenient a quarantine level is.

Metro Manila alone accounts for about two-thirds of the country’s gross domestic product. Extended coronavirus curbs will continue to hurt the Philippine economy, which posted a record 9.6 percent slump last year.

Thirteen areas, including President Rodrigo Duterte’s hometown Davao City, are under the second strictest lockdown level, modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).

“Other areas po na nasa MECQ ay binabantayan po talaga natin ‘yan, and we are always data driven po,” said Roque.

The Philippines is battling one of Asia’s longest running COVID-19 outbreaks. It has tallied about 1.286 coronavirus infections and about 22,000 deaths. (MNS)