President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday apologized to millions of people who will remain under MECQ or the second highest quarantine until May 14, saying it was necessary to help the health system catch up with the COVID surge.

The two-week extension of the MECQ in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Laguna, Rizal and Cavite was recommended by medical professionals and Health Sec. Francisco Duque, Duterte said in his weekly address to the nation.

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A continued MECQ means curfews for 24 million people in the so-called NCR Plus Bubble and stay-at-home orders except when running essential errands. In Metro Manila, the curfew was shortened to 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. starting May 1.

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"Mga kababayan ko naghingi lang ako sa inyo ng paumanhin. I'm sorry that I have to enforce a longer, itong modified enhanced community kasi kailangan, nag-spike yung, umano tumaas yung infections at yung ospital natin puno," Duterte said.

The entire Philippines has been under some sort of quarantine since March 2020 making it one of the world's longest COVID lockdowns. Restrictions on mobility and business sank the economy into its worst recession since World War II.

"I can understand paano yung tuak nyo tumakbo, but the problem is madadali lahat. 'Di ko makuha sa magandang usapan idaan ko na lang talaga sa batas. Actually, batas, we enforce the law," he said.

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"Alam ko na galit kayo. Magalit na lang kayo sa akin dahil wala namana talaga akong magawa. Yang virus na yan lumilipad yan sa hangin," he said.

The virus that causes COVID, SARS-CoV-2, is transmitted through respiratory droplets, hence the requirement for face masks and face shields.

"Sumunod na lang muna kayo tutal para ito sa lahat ako ang pinakahuling tao namag isrtoerbo sa buhay ninyo," he said.

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