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Asia Philippines

Update

Philippines: 3,663% jump in COVID cases in 2 weeks

'Inventory' of unvaccinated people ordered at village level



Health workers encode information and prepare vaccines against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a mobile vaccination site in Taguig, Metro Manila, Philippines, May 21, 2021.
Image Credit: Reuters

Highlights

  • Duterte orders movement of unvaccinated individuals to be restricted.
  • 690% rise in seven-day moving average number of COVID cases.
  • Infections now top 3 million in Asian country.
  • Php5,000 ($100) fine or 30-day jail for those flouting movement-restriction rules among unvaccinated.
  • Php2,000 ($40) aid for unvaccinated market vendors offered in Quezon City.
  • On-site booster shots at construction sites in Manila.

Manila: The Philippine government has issued an order instructing all village chiefs — known as “Barangay Captains” — to submit an inventory of unvaccinated individuals within their area.

In certain major cities, up to 40% of the population still remain unvaccinated.

A new directive issued by President Rodrigo Duterte ordered village officials to use persuasion, as a first step to ensure unvaccinated individuals to stay at home.

Php5,000 fine, 30-day jail

But repeatedly flouting the stay-at-home orders, could invite a fine of up to Php5,000 ($100), or up to 30 days in jail.

The Asian country has a reported a 3,663% jump in COVID cases over the last 14 days, while the seven-day moving average number of cases was higher by 690 percent.

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No vaccination, no ride

As the country’s COVID situation enters a “critical” phase, a new rule was announced on Wednesday allowing only fully-vaccinated people to take public transportation, effective as of January 17.

DOTr Undersecretary Artemio Tuazon Jr. said in a virtual press conference Wednesday: “To give a little leeway and to allow people to prepare, (Secretary Arthur) Tugade ordered to make this fully effective by Monday.” He was referring to DOTr Department Order (DO) No. 2022 – 001 mandating that only fully vaccinated individuals are allowed to take public transportation to, from, and within NCR.

“This DO shall cover public transportation for individuals who reside outside NCR but who work and/or travel to the same,” the issuance read.

Exceptions

Some exceptions include persons with medical conditions that prevent full Covid-19 vaccination “as evidenced by a duly-signed medical certificate with name and contact details of the physician.”

Individuals who will procure essential goods and services such as food, water, and medicine “as evidenced by a duly issued barangay health pass or other appropriate proof to support and justify such travel” are also exempted from the policy.

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“Critical” risk

“Our country is now at critical risk case classification,” Health secretary Francisco Duque said in a meeting with President Duterte in Malacañang.

The regions considered in “critical” condition are:

  • Metro Manila (also known as the National Capital Region, NCR)
  • Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon)
  • Central Luzon

Others were either at high or moderate risk.

On Tuesday, the Department of Health has reported that the country already breached the 3-million mark in cases (3,026,473) since the start of the pandemic.

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A 40% bed utilisation rate was reported, while the usage rate for intensive care unit (ICU) beds was at 38% and 17% for mechanical ventilators, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III reported.

Almost all regions registered an increase in their hospital care utilization rates.

He reminded hospitals “to give priority to accepting or admitting moderate, severe and critical cases and to coordinate with the One Hospital Command Center to refer mild and asymptomatic patients to temporary treatment and monitoring facilities.”

Around 55%, or 15,256 cases, of the new infections reported on Tuesday were from Metro Manila.

44.5% POSITIVITY RATE

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The positivity rate—or the percentage of people found positive out of the total number who underwent testing—was 44.5 percent, slightly lower than the 46 percent reported the previous day. This was based on 58,409 people tested on Sunday, or smaller than the sample size on Saturday.

List of unvaccinated

“It all begins with an inventory,” said Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, spokesperson of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), said in a mix of Filipino and English in an online meeting with other local officials.

“Once we already have that inventory, we could implement the restrictions on the movement of unvaccinated individuals at the LGU level through an ordinance,”

On Monday, the DILG instructed village officials to implement the President’s directive to restrict the movement of unvaccinated individuals in their respective "barangays” — but to do so “within the bounds of the law”.

“The President is merely exercising his authority as chief executive under the public health emergency. He was very clear in his directive that an arrest will only be a last resort. Pakiusapan muna na pumirmi sa bahay. (Talk to the unvaccinated individuals first to stay home. Barangay officials may only arrest the unvaccinated individual who refuse to cooperate and who are leaving the homes for non-essential purposes,” DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año told local media.

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Bring vaccination cards at all time

He advised the public to bring their vaccination cards at all times and show it to barangay officials and police officers as proof of vaccination upon request.

Año said that barangay officials are persons in authority and are duty-bound to implement the president’s directive as well as the ordinances passed by their respective Local Government Units.

In his Talk to the People, President Duterte invoked his authority as Chief Executive amid a national emergency to order the mobility restriction on the unvaccinated. "I am now giving orders to the barangay captains to look for those persons who are not vaccinated and just request them or order them, if you may, to stay put," Duterte said.

DILG Undersecretary and Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said that barangay officials shall also be guided by the ordinances passed by their respective Local Government Units. Malaya said that at least 14 LGUs in Metro Manila have so far approved ordinances restricting the mobility of the unvaccinated in their respective jurisdictions.

Alert Level 3

All Metro Manila mayors earlier passed a resolution that unvaccinated and partially vaccinated individuals must remain in their homes except for essential trips under Alert Level 3 or higher.

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They will also be banned from indoor and al fresco dining, hotels, country clubs, leisure trips and similar establishments and public transportation.

PCR test every 2 weeks for unvaccinated

Malaya said that unvaccinated individuals going to work must present a negative RT-PCR test result every 2 weeks, otherwise they will not be allowed to leave their homes to go to work.

“We are doing this to protect the unvaccinated themselves because they are prone to critical illness and hospitalisation and we need to protect our health care system from being overwhelmed with the exponential rise of coronavirus cases because of the Omicron variant,” he said.

Up to Php5,000 fine, 30-day jail

Malaya said that the ordinances provide for administrative penalties ranging from P500 to P5,000 with imprisonment of 7 days to 30 days. Business establishments who violate the ordinance will also be penalised with a fine of P3,000-5,000 and suspension or cancellation of business permit at the discretion of the court.

The ordinances authorised barangays officials, the police, the City Health Office, and the Business Permits and Licensing Office to implement the law.


Checkpoints

Meanwhile, the DILG also said that the presence of Philippine National Police (PNP) checkpoints requiring residents to show proof of vaccination status is being done in compliance with the directive of President Duterte to restrict the mobility of the unvaccinated — especially in public transportation.