More local gov’ts back mobility curbs on unvaxxed citizens
BAGUIO CITY—More local governments in Luzon and Mindanao have not only made it difficult for unvaccinated persons to enter their localities but have also curtailed movement of their own residents who have yet to be inoculated against the coronavirus disease.
On Friday, the strict rules imposed on unvaccinated individuals by Metro Manila and its neighboring provinces were also adopted by the provinces in the Cordillera, Zambales and Bataan in Central Luzon, Cavite in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) Albay and Camarines Sur in the Bicol Region, Oriental Mindoro in Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan), all in Luzon; and the Mindanao cities of Butuan (Caraga), General Santos City (Soccsksargen) and Zamboanga.
In the Cordillera (Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, Mountain Province and Baguio City), local governments were asked to restrain their unvaccinated residents by prohibiting them from leaving their houses, officials of the region’s COVID-19 task force said at a briefing on Wednesday.
Local officials, including Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong, were directed to enact local ordinances that would reduce the mobility of unvaccinated people, limiting their outdoor activities to only buying food or medicines.
Baguio, which recorded at least 2,082 active COVID-19 cases on Thursday, still allowed unvaccinated persons to continue to work if they could present a negative swab test result. They must also go through a swab test every two weeks.
A similar testing requirement for uninoculated workers was also imposed by Bataan. The province also required motorists to present their vaccination cards at the strategic checkpoints and barred unvaccinated commuters from boarding buses and other public utility vehicles.
In Zambales’ town of San Felipe, only residents or tourists who could present both their vaccination cards and negative antigen test results could enter the municipality’s resorts, hotels and other tourist spots.
Olongapo City, an independent locality in Zambales, did not only bar entry of unvaccinated nonresidents but several of its establishments and offices have also started enforcing the “no vaccine, no entry” policy on individuals transacting business with them, including customers of the city’s power provider, Olongapo Electricity Distribution Co.
In Albay, a vaccination card is a must upon entry. The unvaccinated or partially vaccinated persons would still be allowed into the province but they have to show a negative result of an antigen test taken 24 hours prior to entry.
For the whole Bicol region, health officials said that as of Jan. 12, the COVID-19 positivity rate has reached 52.7 percent out of 1,183 tested, with 601 new cases recorded on the same day.
Swab test even for the vaxxed
In Zamboanga City, officials suspected that the more infectious Omicron variant could have driven the sudden spike in cases, prompting the reimposition of a negative swab test requirement for new arrivals even for vaccinated individuals.
Assistant City Health Officer Dr. Cathy Garcia said the active cases in the city rose from 90 on Jan. 1 to 319 by Jan. 12, or a 254-percent increase in 11 days, making her suspect that the Omicron variant could already be in the city.
She said the relaxation of quarantine rules such as the removal of testing as a requirement for entry in December for vaccinated individuals could have contributed to the arrival of the new virus variant here.
“We didn’t require the RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) test anymore for vaccinated individuals and we have breakthrough infections among vaccinated individuals, so it’s possible this is from Omicron,” Garcia explained.
On Wednesday night, 32 passengers of a boat that arrived from Manila, with a stopover in Dumaguete City, were found positive for the virus through antigen tests. They were further subjected to RT-PCR tests while being placed in isolation.
In Butuan City, a negative RT-PCR or antigen test result taken within 72 hours was required of all inbound travelers, except those coming from the Caraga region.
In General Santos City, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines has temporarily banned the entry of unvaccinated persons at the city’s airport starting on Tuesday.
“Only [persons] with vaccination cards or certificates are allowed inside the airport,” said airport manager Joel Gavina said.
Passengers who are partially vaccinated were required to present a negative RT-PCR test result taken within 72 hours. —REPORTS FROM JOANNA ROSE AGLIBOT, GREG REFRACCION, VINCENT CABREZA, DELFIN MALLARI JR., MAR ARGUELLES, MADONNA VIROLA, JULIE ALIPALA AND ALLEN V. ESTABILLO
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.