Critical Alert


Philippines enacting COVID-19 curbs of varying levels nationwide until Nov. 30. Stricter rules in place in Northern Samar and Surigao City.

 

Summary
The Philippines continues to maintain varying community quarantine restrictions nationwide through at least Nov. 30 amid ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) activity. 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.

The central government did not order any localities to enact the two most stringent levels of protocols of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) in November; however, local officials in some areas are enacting or may appeal to implement these controls. Surigao City is enforcing modified MECQ measures through Nov. 15. A 2200-0400 nightly curfew is in place in Surigao City. Public transport can operate with reduced capacities and other protocols, including compulsory use of facemasks. Nonessential mass gatherings are banned, and religious activities can take place with up to half the venue's seating capacity. Food establishments can host dining-in customers with a maximum of half the seating capacity. Educational institutions remain suspended.

Additionally, local officials in Northern Samar Province are enforcing the general community quarantine (GCQ), the third-strictest level of controls, through Nov. 17. The central government also ordered several other locations, including Metro Manila, to implement the GCQ through Nov. 30. Under the GCQ, most workplaces and public places can operate with distancing protocols. Select industries, such as agriculture, supermarkets, and utilities, can operate on-site at full capacity. Several other sectors, including barbershops and salons, may open at reduced capacities. 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. The GCQ will be in effect through Nov. 30 in the following locations:

  • Luzon: Metro Manila and Batangas Province
  • Mindanao: Lanao del Sur Province and Iligan City
  • Visayas: Bacolod, Iloilo, and Tacloban cities


The central government allows all other localities to enact the modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), which is the least severe level of restrictions, through Nov. 30. 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 primarily serving alcoholic drinks remain closed in all forms of community quarantine. People aged 15-65 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 is enforcing 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.

Travel Restrictions
While most foreign nationals remain banned from entering the country, the government has allowed foreigners to use investor visas to enter the country since Nov. 1. 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. Exceptions from the entry ban are also 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 the trips and undergo two-week quarantine upon arrival. Other visas and applications and visa-free privileges remain suspended. 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.

 

Advice
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.

 

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