VERA FILES FACT SHEET: How does a ‘circuit breaker’ compare with the latest IATF resolution?

Several Facebook users circulated last weekend a supposed “announcement” about a “circuit-breaker lockdown” in Metro Manila for at least two weeks starting March 22 following a surge in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infections.

The FB posts said “non-essential” businesses, either in the National Capital Region (NCR) or in localized hotspot areas, will be closed to curb the active cases of COVID-19. The Department of Health (DOH) reported daily infections that reached at least 7,000 for four consecutive days, the highest since the pandemic began, from March 19 to 22.

The two-week “circuit-breaker” lockdown was purportedly intended to control people’s mobility before and during the Holy Week.

However, Palace Spokesperson Harry Roque, in a press briefing on March 21, belied the circulating statement, saying all operational capacities of “essential and nonessential services and industries” will remain open:

Wala po tayong lockdown. Fake news po iyong sinasabi na magkakaroon daw tayo ng circuit breaker. Hindi po totoo iyan. Ang Metro Manila po ay mananatili under GCQ [general community quarantine], kasama po ang mga probinsya ng Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna at Rizal ... Mayroon po tayong mga karagdagang mga restrictions.

(We don’t have a lockdown. The circuit breaker is fake news. It’s not true. Metro Manila will remain under GCQ, including the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal … We will have additional restrictions).”

Source: Presidential Communications Operations Office, Press Briefing with Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, March 21, 2021, watch from 2:17 to 2:46

Instead, Roque said there will be a “bubble” in NCR and in the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal — referred to as “NCR Plus” — based on Resolution No. 104 issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF).

What is a “circuit breaker” and how does it compare with a “bubble” under the latest issuance of the IATF?

Similar to the function of an electric circuit breaker, a switch that “automatically interrupts” the current of an overloaded electric circuit, a circuit-breaker lockdown refers to a set of tight restrictions imposed within a fixed period (usually two weeks or more) to “reverse the tide” of a raging pandemic, as reported by several news media and explained in a 2020 press release of the Singapore Ministry of Health.

A BBC video explainer said this type of “lockdown” is shorter, compared with a typical lockdown, in the hope that it would be “less damaging” to the economy and people’s mental health.

The United Kingdom and Singapore, among other countries, have previously implemented circuit-breaker lockdowns in varying durations.

Roque first floated the idea of a circuit breaker-type of lockdown during a March 18 presser when he said it was in the IATF meeting agenda later that day. The next day, however, Roque said the proposal was not agreed upon by the task force.

In a March 22 briefing, the spokesperson said the two-week bubble in the NCR and neighboring provinces will not allow the entrance and exit of people, except if they are authorized persons outside their residences (APOR), such as essential workers with valid identification cards and frontliners, among others.

Other parts of the country outside the bubble are not covered by the new IATF resolution.

Moreover, nonessential trips in and out of the bubble are prohibited. Public transportation will still operate under guidelines from the Department of Transportation.

The 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew across the NCR and greater Manila bubble has been resumed.

NTF NCR+ Additional Restrictions from March 22 to April 4

Persons below 18 and above 65 years old, those with immunodeficiency, comorbidity or other health risks, and pregnant women are required to stay at home, except when going out for indispensable activities such as buying essential goods or for work.

Roque said cash aid from the government during the NCR Plus bubble is unlikely because the economy has remained open; workers have limited mobility but are still encouraged to work in isolation.


The NCR Plus bubble aims to bring down the cases by at least 25%, according to Roque.


Sources

Department of Health Official Facebook page, DOH COVID-19: Case Bulletin # 370, March 19, 2021

Department of Health Official Facebook page, DOH COVID-19: Case Bulletin # 371, March 20, 2021

Department of Health Official Facebook page, DOH COVID-19: Case Bulletin # 372, March 21, 2021

Department of Health Official Facebook page, DOH COVID-19: Case Bulletin # 373, March 22, 2021

ABS-CBN News, HIGHEST EVER: PH reports record-high 7,103 new COVID-19 cases, March 19, 2021

Inquirer.net, Cases hit new single-day high; tighter curbs urged, March 20, 2021

Rappler.com, PH logs over 7,000 COVID-19 cases, highest since pandemic began, March 19, 2021

Presidential Communications Operations Office Official Facebook page, Spox Roque Virtual Press Briefing, March 21, 2021

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Press Briefing with Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque, March 21, 2021

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Interview with Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque by Karen Davila (ANC – Headstart), March 22, 2021

ABS-CBN News YouTube, Headstart, March 22, 2021

Official Gazette of the Philippines, Memorandum from the Secretary: Additional Measures to address the rising COVID-19 cases in the country, March 21, 2021

Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto Official Facebook, IATF Resolution No. 104 s. 2021, March 20, 2021

Presidential Communications Operations Office Official Facebook page, Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, March 22, 2021

Britannica.com, Circuit breaker, March 4, 2021

BBC News, Covid: What is a circuit-breaker could one fight the virus?, Nov. 20, 2020

Good Morning Britain YouTube, Do We Need A 'Circuit Breaker' Lockdown?, Oct. 14, 2020

CNBC, Coronavirus ‘circuit breakers’ and ‘firebreaks:’ What are they and do they work?, Oct. 20, 2020

CBC News: The National YouTube, What is a ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown and does it work?, Nov. 12, 2020

Singapore Ministry of Health, Circuit Breaker to Minimise Further Spread of COVID-19, April 3, 2020

BBC News YouTube, Circuit breaker: What is a circuit-breaker lockdown?, Oct. 20, 2021

The Executive Office of the United Kingdom, Executive agrees two-week circuit breaker, Nov. 19, 2020

Government of Singapore, Ending circuit breaker: phased approach to resuming activities safely, June 1, 2020

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, March 18, 2021

PTV YouTube, WATCH: Press briefing with Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, March 18, 2021

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, March 19, 2021

PTV YouTube, WATCH: Press briefing with Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, March 19, 2021

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Public Briefing #LagingHandaPH Hosted by PCOO Undersecretary Rocky Ignacio, March 22, 2021

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Press Release: Palace assures whole-of-gov’t strategy continues coupled with localized responses to address COVID-19 surge, March 11, 2021

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, March 22, 2021


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

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