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Philippines: Current situation on the coronavirus

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last updated on 10 September 2021 | reading time approx. 3 minutes

 

The Philippines continues to be one of the most severely affected countries by Covid-19 in Asia. In the last wave of infections, the highest rate of new infections was reported on 04/03/2021. Since then, infection rates have been declining, except for a brief spike in the first week of June. 




However, this positive trend took an abrupt turn in mid-July. Since then, the country has been hit by a renewed wave, continuously reaching new peeks of daily infections continuously. The Philippines has to deal with several variants of the virus, including the alpha, beta, delta, gamma and theta variants.

 

  • Infection situation: the total number of detected Covid-19 cases now amounts to 1,857,646, and the number of Corona-related deaths currently totals 31,961, representing a lethality rate of 1.72 percent. 1,695,335 people are considered recovered;
  • New infections and incidence: the number of new infections in the Philippines currently amounts to 18,332, with an average of 14,543 new infections being recorded per day over the past 7 days. Within the last week, 92.9 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants were reported in the Philippines ("7-day incidence");
  • Immunization (as of August 23, 2021): 18,697,647 primary immunizations have been conducted in the Philippines until the present date. This represents an immunization coverage rate of 17.3 percent for first-dose vaccinations. With 13,197,689 additional doses, 12.2 percent of the population are fully vaccinated;
  • Testing (as of August 21, 2021): the 7-day average of tests conducted currently amounts to 59,891, of which 13,835 tests were positive in the 7-day average, resulting in a positive test rate of 23.1 percent. However, due to local conditions, a higher number of unreported Covid-19 cases must be suspected.

  

Measures for infection control

To counter the spreading coronavirus, the Philippine government, through its “Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases” (IATF-EID), is maintaining Covid-19 community quarantines. Accordingly, the entire country is divided into different quarantine levels:
 

1) Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ)

Residents of areas under an ECQ are generally required to stay at home, and are not allowed to travel to other cities or districts. Individuals are only allowed to leave the house if they need to obtain essential goods/medicine or if they are allowed to go to work. Particularly vulnerable groups of people (including persons under the age of 18 years and over the age of 65 years) must comply with the home quarantine at all times, with minimal interruptions, since March 2020. The operation of facilities, professional activity of individuals, or the conduct of activities, are permitted only to the extent specifically mentioned in the „Omnibus Guidelines on Community Quarantine”. Consequently, only essential facilities and industries are allowed to keep their premises open for public use, such as hospitals, grocery stores, courier and delivery services, certain manufacturing operations, and business process outsourcing (BPO). Compared to previous ECQ quarantine restrictions, more facilities are allowed to continue operating with a skeleton workforce. 
 
Other regulations: Curfew between 8:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m.; alcohol ban, if applicable, depending on the decision of the LGU (Local Government Unit); gatherings are generally prohibited (with the exception of funeral services within a limited framework); public transportation is restricted in capacity (determined by the Department of Transportation); restaurants have to be closed except for take-away meals.
 
Currently applies to:

  • No area in the Philippines

 

2) Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ)

MECQ refers to the transitional phase between ECQ and General Community Quarantine (GCQ). The following measures are loosened and become less necessary: strict restrictions on movement and transport of people; rigorous regulation of operational industries; provision of food and essential services; and increased presence of uniformed officers to enforce quarantine regulations.
 
The main regulations still maintained are as follows: Strict curfew between 10:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m., with exceptions for systemically important occupational groups; restricted movement, with exceptions to obtain essential goods for one person/household; roadblocks and checkpoints; restaurants (except outdoor dining) etc., remain closed, or open with very limited capacity; restricted opening of supermarkets with limited number of visitors.
 
Applies for the period from August 21 to August 31, 2021:

  • NCR - Metro Manila
  • Luzon - Cordillera Administrative Region: Apayao; Region I: Ilocos Norte; Region III: Bulacan, and Bataan; and Region IV-A: Cavite, Laguna, Lucena City, and Rizal
  • Visayas - Region VI: Aklan, Iloilo, and Iloilo City; Region VII: Cebu City, Lapu-Lapu City, and Mandaue City
  • Mindanao - Region X: Cagayan de Oro
     

For the NCR - Metro Manila region, the following specifics apply: Curfew between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m.; outdoor sports allowed only between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m.; possible alcohol ban depending on LGU decision; personal services remain prohibited; possibility of cluster-related lockdowns.
 

3) General Community Quarantine (GCQ)

Introduced on May 1, GCQ is generally less stringent than MECQ. Public transportation is allowed to operate with limited capacity. All facilities and activities that were prohibited under the ECQ (e.g., entertainment facilities) may be operated at 50 to 100 percent of their regular capacity (as determined by the Department of Trade and Industry). All other facilities and activities are allowed to operate at full capacity. Shopping malls may also open, but limited to selected stalls and stores.
 
Applicable for the period from August 01 to August 31, 2021:

  • Luzon - Cordillera Administrative Region: Baguio City; Region II: City of Santiago, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino; Region III: Tarlac; Region IV-B: Puerto Princesa.
  • Visayas - Region VI: Guimaras, Negros Occidental
  • Mindanao - Region IX: Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga City, Zamboanga del Norte; Region XI: Davao Oriental, and Davao del Sur; Region XII: General Santos City, Sul-tan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato, South Cotabato; Region XIII: Agusan del Norte, Surigao del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Sur; and Bang-samoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao: Cotabato City.
     

GCQ with additional heightened restrictions during the period up to August 31, 2021:

  • Luzon - Region I: Ilocos Sur; Region II: Cagayan; Region IV-A: Quezon and Batangas; and Region V: Naga City.
  • Visayas - Region VI: Bacolod City, Capiz and Antique; and Region VII: Negros Oriental and Cebu Province
  • Mindanao - Region IX: Zamboanga del Sur; Region X: Misamis Oriental; Region XI: Davao City, Davao del Norte, Davao de Oro, Davao Occidental; and Region XIII: Butuan City
     

Among the more stringent restrictions are the following: max. 20 percent indoor occupancy and max. 50 percent outdoor occupancy of restaurants; max. 30 percent occupancy in establishments for personal care (beauty salons and the like); ban on conventions etc.; interzonal travel restrictions; religious gatherings up to max. 10 percent of venue capacity.
 

4) Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ)

MGCQ refers to the transition phase between GCQ and the New Normal (new behaviors and minimum public health standards that are jointly institutionalized and remain in place after the pandemic) when the following temporary measures become loosened and less necessary: Restriction of movement and transportation, regulation of operational industries, and the presence of uniformed officers to enforce quarantine regulations.
 
Accordingly, the most important restrictions still in place are as follows: Curfews for particularly vulnerable groups of people (including, in particular, those under the age of 18 years and over the age of 65 years), operating restrictions on the entertainment industry, use of no more than 50 percent of seating or venue capacity.
 
Effective until August 31, 2021:

  • All areas of the Philippines not specified in the foregoing
     

However, the government may change this classification. at any time due to emerging circumstances In addition, the respective administrative units, if necessary, may establish separate local „lockdowns“.
 
The Philippine government mandates that everyone in public wears a full face shield (in certain areas) along with a mouth-to-nose cover. Severe penalties, up to and including arrest, may be imposed for improper use or non-compliance.
 
When entering stores, supermarkets and restaurants as well as leisure facilities that are open on a case-by-case basis, trackable registration, in some cases using QR codes, is mandatory.

 

Travel/Visa Restrictions

As of February 1, 2021, foreigners must have a valid visa at the time of entry into the country. For the moment, however, Philippine authorities continue to maintain an entry ban on foreigners. This means that Philippine entry visas that have already been issued have been declared invalid, and new tourist visas are generally not being issued at this time. The only exceptions are for aircraft and ship crew members, family members (spouses, children, parents) of Philippine nationals, persons with privileged residence status as diplomats and members of international organizations, and foreigners who already hold long-term visas. Nevertheless, in individual cases a "Travel Ban Exemption" can be applied for through the responsible Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs. For this purpose, an important reason must be credibly demonstrated.
 
Furthermore, all entrants, except diplomats and members of international organizations, must undergo a 14-day quarantine. Of those days, at least 10 days must be spent in a pre-booked, accredited quarantine facility, with a PCR test performed on the 7th day. The remaining 4 days may be served in home quarantine. For fully vaccinated persons from so-called "Green Countries" as well as for persons who have stayed in these countries during the fourteen days preceding entry, entry facilitations apply.
 
Furthermore, the Philippine government has announced that fully vaccinated travelers can obtain an international vaccination certificate (ICV or yellow card) from the Philippine Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ). This can be used in the Philippines or internationally as authenticated proof of vaccination.
 
The number of inbound air passengers is still limited to 2,000 per day with priority on returning Filipino guest workers. Nonetheless, the national carrier "Philippine Airlines" has increased international and domestic flight operations again as of July 2021. Air travel for tourism purposes within the Philippines is now possible on a few isolated routes. Mandatory TRAZE app must be used to enable official tracking.
 
Other means of public transportation such as buses, cabs, shared cabs, etc. are currently restricted depending on the community quarantine level in effect.
 
Furthermore, to contain the delta variant, entry from the following countries is prohibited if you have been there for fourteen days prior to entry: Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Oman, and the United Arab Emi-rates, and as of July 25, 2021, Malaysia and Thailand. Travelers who were exclusively air transit passengers in these countries are exempt from this entry ban.
 

Forecast

The year 2020 brought the worst recession in recent history for the Philippines, with a 9.5 percent slump in gross domestic product. This was due in particular to the massive quarantine and lockdown measures, collapsed international demand and disruptions in supply chains. The construction, retail and tourism sectors suffered the greatest losses.
 
Despite continued severe mobility restrictions and a vaccination program that is not too far advanced in its implementation, the Philippine central bank (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas) announced that the target range for real GDP growth in 2021 will be narrowed to 6.0 percent to 7.0 percent. Thus, the Philippine Statistics Authority also reported a GDP increase of 11.8 percent for the second quarter of 2021. Numerous private financial institutions, on the other hand, are forecasting figures of between 5.0 percent and 6.0 percent. Furthermore, it can be assumed that the pre-crisis level can be reached as early as 2022, and that a long-term trend towards economic recovery will settle in again. Then the strengths of the Philippine economy, the young and well-educated population, the high propensity to consume and the planned infrastructure modernization programs, could come to bear again. Thus, the Philippine government hopes that as the fight against the pandemic progresses and is successful, the volume of investment, especially from abroad, will pick up again.

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