Philippines Increases COVID-19 Restrictions amid Spike in Infections

Camille Elemia
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Philippines Increases COVID-19 Restrictions amid Spike in Infections Filipinos wait to board a bus at a terminal in Parañaque city, Metro Manila, Dec. 30, 2021.

Philippine authorities have expanded stricter COVID-19 measures from Metro Manila to provinces surrounding the capital region amid a spike in suspected Omicron cases after the holidays, officials said Tuesday.

In an announcement on New Year’s Eve, the government placed Metro Manila under Alert Level 3 beginning Monday until Jan. 15. It expanded the restrictions to three provinces beginning Wednesday, while the rest of the country would remain under Alert Level 2.

“Due to a sharp increase of COVID-19 cases in the particular localities, the Inter-Agency Task Force approved yesterday, Jan. 3, 2022, the recommendation … to escalate Bulacan, Cavite and Rizal to Alert Level 3,” acting presidential spokesman Karlo Nograles said in a statement on Tuesday.

Before the holidays, the average number of daily COVID-19 cases hovered between 200 and 400. On Tuesday, the Department of Health recorded 5,434 new cases – the highest total since Oct. 29, 2021.

Nograles attributed the spike to increased mobility during the holiday season and detection of the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

The Philippines has recorded more than 2.86 million COVID-19 infections and more than 51,000 deaths since the pandemic began while 45 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated, according to government data.

Under Alert Level 3, establishments are allowed to operate at a limited capacity – 30 percent for indoors and 50 percent for outdoors for fully vaccinated people.

Such establishments include restaurants, recreational avenues, cinemas, amusement parks, fitness studios, non-contact sports, conferences, exhibitions and social events including weddings and birthday parties.

Face-to-face classes, contact sports, children’s playgrounds, venues with live voice or wind instrument performances, karaoke or concerts, gaming establishments, casinos and social gatherings in residences with people who do not live there are prohibited.

Children younger than 18 are barred from leaving homes, the government said.

Under Alert Level 2, the second lowest of the nation’s five-alert system, restrictions on gatherings have been eased and children younger than 18 are allowed freedom of movement subject to guidelines by local municipalities. Venues for meetings as well as well as parties, reunions or family gatherings are allowed as well.

On Monday, the Department of Health announced that the Philippines was again considered “high-risk” for COVID-19 transmission, with “a high possibility of local transmission” of the Omicron variant.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the department warned hospitals of the impending increase in COVID-19 cases.

“We have already advised hospitals two weeks ago that they should be expanding their beds, stockpiling medications,” Vergeire told reporters on Monday.

“We are ready for this and whatever experience we got from the Delta variant-induced spike of cases, we are more prepared now because of that experience,” she said.


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