Philippines limits mobility, business in NCR over Omicron threat

January 3, 2022 - 9:22 AM
A woman wearing a face mask as protection against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) waits to ride a bus going to provinces, a day before the New Year's Eve, at a bus terminal in Paranaque City, Metro Manila, Philippines, December 30, 2021. (Reuters/Lisa Marie David)

MANILA — The Philippines will impose tighter curbs in the capital region for the next two weeks, the acting presidential spokesperson said on Friday, to try to limit infections by the Omicron coronavirus variant that is spreading globally.

The Department of Health on Friday recorded 2,961 new coronavirus infections, a two-month high, and reported a positivity rate of 10.3%.

“In the coming days, we might see an increase in active cases,” acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles said in a televised announcement.

The region including the capital Manila is an urban sprawl of 16 cities that is home to more than 13 million people. It will be placed under the third of a five-scale alert system on Jan. 3 to 15, Nograles said.

Alert Level 3 bans face-to-face classes, contact sports, funfairs, and casinos. The government’s coronavirus task force will also reduce the operating capacity for social events, tourist attractions, amusement parks, restaurant dine-in services, fitness studios, and personal care services.

With roughly 2.84 million total confirmed cases and 51,504 casualties, the Philippines has the second highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Southeast Asia, after Indonesia.

The Philippines has so far detected 10 Omicron cases, three of which three were domestic infections and the rest were from overseas travelers. The country’s genome sequencing capacity is limited.

“It is prudent to assume that Omicron is already in circulation, or is already in the community,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque said at a news conference on Friday. —Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by James Pearson and Grant McCool