Philippines Relaxes COVID-19 Restrictions

Camille Elemia
2022.02.28
Manila
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Philippines Relaxes COVID-19 Restrictions Foreigners traveling to the Philippines arrive at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, Feb. 10, 2022.
Basilio Sepe/BenarNews

After imposing one of the world’s longest lockdowns, the Philippines government on Monday announced the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in Metro Manila and dozens of other sites to the lowest level, starting Tuesday and lasting for at least two weeks.

Establishments and public transportation services can operate at full capacity under Alert Level 1, but in-person classes for primary schools are subject to the president’s prior approval, the government’s COVID-19 task force said. 

“Tomorrow, March 1, 2022, is the start of the implementation of Alert Level 1 in Metro Manila and 38 other places in the Philippines,” Karlo Nograles, the acting spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte, told reporters. 

“To places under Alert Level 1, the government thanks you for your cooperation and for following minimum public health standards, and for working together to increase vaccinations so we can get past this pandemic,” he said. “We are seeing the same levels of cooperation in other areas and observing the same patterns of progress.”

Alert Level 1 means there is a low risk of infection and that at least 70 percent of the target population has been fully vaccinated, Nograles said. The change is to be in place until at least March 15.

While restrictions are being relaxed, Filipinos will be required to wear masks at all times except for when eating, drinking and doing outdoor exercises while observing social distancing, the government said. 

In addition, adults are required to present proof of full vaccination before participating in mass gatherings or entering indoor establishments such as gyms, cinemas, conferences and election-related venues, officials said. 

More importantly, people, regardless of age and medical condition, can travel to areas outside their home regions. 

The move follows the country’s reopening its borders to foreign tourists in mid-February after nearly two years. Tourists must show proof of vaccination but do not need to be quarantined upon arrival. 

Self-regulate

Despite the easing of restrictions, the Department of Health reminded people that the pandemic was not over, as the government agency urged Filipinos to self-regulate.

“We have not yet reached the endemic state. We are now at a level where we are still transitioning to our desired new normal,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said Monday. 

Vergeire warned that the government could reimpose stricter regulations should there be a new surge of COVID-19 infections. 

“Complacency in terms of vaccination, that’s what we are looking at right now,” she said, noting that many people including those in the capital region have apparently failed to get booster shots. 

“During this time that Omicron is here – and this is backed by science and evidence – we need an additional dose or booster so that we are given appropriate or adequate protection against this variant,” she said, referring to the highly infectious strain of the coronavirus disease.

The health department recorded 951 new COVID-19 cases and 50 deaths on Monday, a steep decline from the all-time one-day high of 39,004 infections recorded on Jan. 15. The Southeast Asian nation has recorded more than 3.6 million infections and more than 56,000 deaths since the pandemic began here in early 2020.

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