MANILA — Laguna, Cagayan De Oro, and Iloilo City will return to the strictest lockdown level to contain the highly contagious Delta coronavirus strain starting Friday until Aug. 15, Malacañang said on Thursday night.
President Rodrigo Duterte approved the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) to place Laguna, Iloilo City and Cagayan de Oro under ECQ, according to Palace spokesperson Harry Roque.
He added that Cavite, Iloilo province, Rizal, and Lucena City will be placed under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) during the same period.
Batangas and Quezon provinces will be under general community quarantine (GCQ) with heightened restrictions also during the same period.
Metro Manila, home to at least 13 million people, will also be under ECQ from Aug. 6 to 20.
Experts have warned of an explosion in infections fueled 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 300 Delta variant 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 10.2 million people have been fully vaccinated.
The government aims to immunize 58 to 70 million people this year to safely reopen the economy.
— With a report from Pia Gutierrez, and Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News; Agence France-Presse