The Philippines will allow foreigners to use investor visas to enter the country from Nov. 1 amid continued attempts to stem the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Authorities will also allow entry for foreigners using visas issued by the state agencies Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority, and Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority. The travelers must have valid and existing visas and should book a quarantine facility prior to arrival. The government continues to maintain varying community quarantine restrictions nationwide as of Oct. 23. The country remains under Code Red Sublevel 2 on the code alert system, indicating ongoing local virus transmission with greater numbers of cases than the government can address.
Isabela Province's Ilagan City is enacting the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), the most stringent level of controls, through Oct. 30 due to continued high local COVID-19 activity. Most on-site work remains suspended. Essential sectors like medical and manufacturing of medical supplies can continue working at full capacity. Workplaces like supermarkets and media companies can operate on-site with half the employee capacity, while sectors like banking and telecommunication are limited to their skeleton workforce. Public transport, domestic flights, educational institutions, and nonessential mass gatherings remain suspended.
Several localities are enforcing the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ), the second-strictest level of measures. MECQ is in effect in Lanao del Sur Province and Surigao City through Oct. 31 and in Maasin City through Nov. 3. Under MECQ, residents can leave their homes to obtain essential supplies or seek emergency care. Key industries, including agriculture, food establishments, and manufacturing of essential products, can work on-site with full capacity. Several sectors, such as real estate and manufacturing of nonessential goods, can operate with half their workforce. Most public transport and domestic flights remain suspended, while essential mass gatherings are limited to five people.
Several other locations, including Metro Manila, are implementing the general community quarantine (GCQ), the third-strictest level of controls. Under GCQ, most workplaces and public places can operate with distancing protocols. Essential industries, such as agriculture, supermarkets, and utilities, can operate on-site at full capacity. Other select sectors, including financial and professional services and salons, may open at half their capacity. Public transport can operate at a reduced capacity with health protocols, such as maintaining a one-meter distancing between passengers. Nonessential mass gatherings remain banned, while religious congregations can occur with attendees occupying up to 30 percent of the venues' capacity. Educational institutions remain suspended. Southern Leyte Province is enacting GCQ through Nov. 3. GCQ is also in effect through Oct. 31 in the following locations:
- Luzon: Metro Manila and Batangas Province
- Mindanao: Iligan City
- Visayas: Bacolod, Iloilo, and Tacloban cities
Modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), which is the least severe level of restrictions, is in effect for all other localities through at least Oct. 31. Companies can work on-site, though at-risk employees must telecommute. Officials are allowing public places, such as food establishments and gyms, to operate at 50-percent capacity. Public transport can operate with distancing controls in place. Mass gatherings may occur at half of venue capacity. Universities can conduct on-site activities with health protocols, while other educational institutions remain suspended with limited exceptions.
Facilities such as children's amusement parks and establishments serving primarily alcoholic drinks remain closed in all forms of community quarantine. People between the ages of 15 and 65 can leave their homes, though stricter rules are in place in several areas, including Metro Manila, which allows people aged 18-65 to go out. At-risk groups cannot work on-site nationwide, with limited exceptions. Provincial and municipal authorities and healthcare professionals may appeal to the central government to either tighten or ease measures. Wearing facemasks is compulsory when in several public facilities, including workplaces, public transport vehicles, markets, shopping malls, and supermarkets. Airlines, including AirAsia (AK), Cebgo (DG), Cebu Pacific (5J), and Philippine Airlines (PR), are operating domestic routes between several cities with health protocols in place; passengers must wear facemasks.
Local governments in several areas are implementing restrictions in addition to the controls mandated by the central government. Metro Manila has shortened the nightly curfew hours to 1200-0400, except for Navotas City, which enforces a 2000-0500 curfew. Exemptions from the curfew are in place for people commuting to and from workplaces with permission to operate on-site, transport workers, and people in emergencies, among others. A nightly 1900-0500 curfew is in effect in Davao City. Additionally, officials in Pasay and Pasig cities have mandated people to wear facemasks and face shields when in public. Local officials may enforce short-term movement restrictions, such as stay-home orders with limited exemptions, to facilitate mass testing of residents; Bacolod City imposed movement controls Aug. 28-31 to allow mass testing.
Most foreign nationals remain banned from entering the country. Exceptions are in place for foreign nationals with long-term visas, among others. Inbound foreign nationals must secure a quarantine facility and a COVID-19 testing provider prior to arrival. Other visas and applications and visa-free privileges remain suspended. Exemptions for foreign spouses and children of Philippine citizens and diplomatic staff and dependents are in place. Arriving travelers must undergo a two-week quarantine at government-designated facilities. The government has allowed nonessential outbound travel to resume since Oct. 21. Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and uniformed personnel on official duty can continue traveling outside the country.
Background and Analysis
COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.
Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all travel arrangements. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments. Plan for queues and delays at available shopping centers.
Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.