MANILA — The National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 on Wednesday denied that it would send some 16 million residents in Calabarzon region back under the strictest lockdown level to contain cases of the highly contagious Delta coronavirus strain.
"Wala pong desisyon na ganyan," NTF deputy chief implementer Vince Dizon said in a public briefing, when asked if Calabarzon would be placed under enhanced community quarantine.
(There is no such decision.)
Out of 5 Calabarzon provinces, only Laguna is under the second toughest lockdown, the modified ECQ.
Nearby Metro Manila, home to 13 million people, will be under ECQ from Aug. 6 to 20.
Experts have warned of an explosion in infections fuelled by the Delta variant that could overwhelm hospitals in the coming weeks if restrictions are not drastically tightened in the crowded capital.
The Philippines has recorded more than 1.6 million coronavirus infections — the second highest in Delta-ravaged Southeast Asia —including nearly 28,000 deaths.
So far, it has confirmed more than 200 Delta infections, many of them local cases, and there are fears the more contagious strain could tear through the nation like it has in neighboring countries.
Metro Manila and surrounding provinces were last locked down in March as record infections pushed hospitals to their limit.
As new cases eased in July, the government lifted a ban on children aged 5 to 17 going outdoors for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
But 2 weeks later it reimposed the stay-at-home order as authorities confirmed local transmission of the Delta variant.
The tougher restrictions come as the country struggles to vaccinate its population due to tight global supplies and logistical challenges. Only 9.8 million people have been fully vaccinated.
The government aims to immunize 58 to 70 million people this year to safely reopen the economy.
— With reports from Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News; Agence France-Presse