MANILA — The National Capital Region and 4 other areas will be placed under general community quarantine (GCQ) "with heightened restrictions," Malacañang said on Friday, after the Philippines confirmed local transmission of the highly infectious Delta COVID-19 variant.
The following areas will be under GCQ with heightened restrictions from July 23 until 31, said Palace spokesman Harry Roque.
- Ilocos Norte
- Ilocos Sur
- Davao De Oro
- Davao Del Norte
Under GCQ with heightened restrictions, indoor dine-in services are limited to 20 percent of venue or seating capacity, while al fresco or outdoor dine-in services are capped at 50 percent of capacity, the inter-agency task force on COVID-19 earlier said.
Personal care services, such as beauty salons, beauty parlors, barbershops, and nail spas, may operate up to 30 percent of capacity under this quarantine level.
The inter-agency task force on COVID-19 earlier placed Iloilo province, Iloilo City, Cagayan de Oro, and Gingoog City in Misamis Oriental under the strictest lockdown level, enhanced community quarantine, at least until the end of the month.
Davao Del Sur will be downgraded to GCQ from its previous modified ECQ classification, starting July 23 until 31, Roque said.
The Department of Health on Thursday reported 12 new local cases of the Delta variant, first emerged in India, bringing the Philippines' total cases of the strain to 47.
"Clusters of Delta variant cases were seen to be linked to other local cases, therefore, exhibiting local transmission," the DOH said in a statement.
For context, the term "local transmission" is used if there is evidence that a local case has already transmitted the virus to another local case, Health Epidemiology Bureau Dir. Alethea De Guzman earlier said.
Independent research unit OCTA also early Thursday said the spike of new infections in the capital region is likely driven by the Delta variant, which could signal the onset of a fresh surge.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said on Wednesday the Alpha and Beta variants, which first emerged in the United Kingdom and South Africa, respectively, were behind the relatively high cases in Metro Manila.
PROTOCOLS FOR INTERNATIONAL TRAVELERS
To curb the spread of COVID-19 variants among inbound international travelers, the Bureau of Quarantine must identify the close contacts in the airplane or vessel of the confirmed patients, and closely monitor them, Roque said.
"Infection prevention and control protocols must likewise be strictly followed in all quarantine and isolation facilities," said Roque, who is also spokesman for the IATF.
Local governments, he said, "must closely monitor for the appearance of any sign or symptom while arrivals are completing their quarantine and immediately conduct RT-PCR testing after detection of symptoms."
"In addition, health assessment must be done for all arrivals at the end of isolation or quarantine period."
To enable the safe continuity of economic activities, the IATF asked establishments to "consider developing and converting more outdoor spaces into temporary outdoor weekend markets and dining spaces and permanently accessible urban green spaces, outdoor recreational spaces and public sanitation facilities," said the Palace official.
Lastly, the IATF allowed foreign spouses, parents, and children of Filipino citizens with valid 9(a) visas to enter the Philippines, "without the need of an entry exemption document" from Aug. 1, Roque said.
Philippine authorities have been scrambling to try and stop the Delta COVID-19 variant from spreading after this triggered a surge in infections across Southeast Asia.
The Philippines has banned travelers from 10 countries until the end of July.
But while tightening border controls to keep the variant out, authorities previously loosened other curbs, including permitting children aged 5 and above to go outdoors. The IATF also rescinded this policy on Friday.
With more than 1.5 million cases and some 26,800 deaths, the Philippines has the second-highest number of infections and deaths in Southeast Asia, and the detection of the Delta variant could slow the country's return to normalcy.
The Philippines has so far fully immunized about 5.2 million out of its 58 to 70 million target population, Malacañang said on Thursday.
– With a report from Reuters
More details to follow.