Cinemas, arcades, museums shut anew
The government on Friday ordered tightened pandemic restrictions to curb the fast-rising number of COVID-19 cases, which have been filling up quarantine facilities and hospitals in Metro Manila.
These were ordered by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) following recent reports of infections topping 5,000 cases per day before Friday’s record 7,103 new cases, the highest number in a single day since last year.
The IATF’s Resolution No. 103 suspended the operation of cinemas, game arcades, driving schools, libraries, museums, other cultural centers and limited tourist attractions except open area attractions until April 4.
The government allowed most of these establishments to reopen in February. Theaters in Metro Manila resumed operations only early this month.
The IATF said religious gatherings should only be allowed for 30 percent of a venue’s capacity, but local governments may increase that to 50 percent.
Meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions should be limited to essential gatherings also at 30 percent of venue capacity.
Dine-in restaurants, cafes and personal care services would be limited to 50-percent capacity.
The IATF suspended cockfighting and cockpit operations, including in areas under modified general community quarantine.
National government agencies are also encouraged to defer noncritical activities that would require mass gatherings.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the latest IATF resolution balanced the need for people to work with the need to curb the rising number of cases.
“We’re hoping that with increased cooperation from our countrymen, wearing masks, washing hands, observing physical distancing, we will be able to bring down the number of cases,” Roque told reporters at an online briefing from a hotel where he is quarantined after testing positive for the coronavirus last week.
In a separate order, Malacañang directed government agencies in the executive branch, including state-owned and controlled corporations, to reduce the number of people reporting for work to 30 percent to 50 percent in areas under GCQ from March 22 to April 4.
Agencies that provide health and emergency front-line services, border control, and other critical services may operate at a higher capacity, according to Memorandum Circular No. 85.
Malacañang strongly urged the legislative and judicial offices, as well as the independent constitutional bodies, to adopt the same measures.
Pinoys can fly home
The IATF also limited the entry of arriving international travelers, but said all Filipinos would be allowed to return home.
The entry of foreign nationals would be suspended from March 22 to April 21.
The ban will not apply to diplomats and members of international organizations with valid visas, foreign nationals involved in medical repatriation, foreign seafarers under the “Green Lanes” program for crew change, foreign spouses and children of Filipino nationals traveling with them, and emergency, humanitarian and other similar cases approved by the chair of the National Task Force Against COVID-19.
Due to the travel restrictions, Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific canceled dozens of international flights.
Also on Friday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III directed hospitals to increase their beds dedicated to COVID-19 patients by 20 percent to 35 percent to accommodate more cases. —WITH REPORTS FROM DEXTER CABALZA AND MARIEJO S. RAMOS
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