MANILA, July 23 (Mabuhay) — The National Capital Region and 4 other areas will be placed under general community quarantine (GCQ) “with heightened restrictions,” Malacañang said on Friday, after the Philippines confirmed local transmission of the highly infectious Delta COVID-19 variant.

The following areas will be under GCQ with heightened restrictions from July 23 until 31, said Palace spokesman Harry Roque.

NCR

Ilocos Norte

Ilocos Sur

Davao De Oro

Davao Del Norte

“The same IATF rules would be observed when NCR was previously under GCQ with heightened restrictions,” Roque said.

The inter-agency task force on COVID-19 earlier placed Iloilo province, Iloilo City, Cagayan de Oro, and Gingoog City in Misamis Oriental under the strictest lockdown level, enhanced community quarantine, at least until the end of the month.

Davao Del Sur will be downgraded to GCQ from its previous modified ECQ classification, starting July 23 until 31, Roque said.

The Department of Health on Thursday reported 12 new local cases of the Delta variant, first emerged in India, bringing the Philippines’ total cases of the strain to 47.

“Clusters of Delta variant cases were seen to be linked to other local cases, therefore, exhibiting local transmission,” the DOH said in a statement.

For context, the term “local transmission” is used if there is evidence that a local case has already transmitted the virus to another local case, Health Epidemiology Bureau Dir. Alethea De Guzman earlier said.

Independent research unit OCTA also early Thursday said the spike of new infections in the capital region is likely driven by the Delta variant, which could signal the onset of a fresh surge.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said on Wednesday the Alpha and Beta variants, which first emerged in the United Kingdom and South Africa, respectively, were behind the relatively high cases in Metro Manila.

Philippine authorities have been scrambling to try and stop the variant from spreading after this triggered a surge in infections across Southeast Asia.

The Philippines has banned travelers from 8 countries including India, Indonesia, and the UAE until the end of July.

But while tightening border controls to keep the variant out, authorities previously loosened other curbs, including permitting children aged 5 and above to go outdoors. The IATF also rescinded this policy on Friday. 

With more than 1.5 million cases and some 26,800 deaths, the Philippines has the second-highest number of infections and deaths in Southeast Asia, and the detection of the Delta variant could slow the country’s return to normalcy.

The Philippines has so far fully immunized about 5.9 million out of its 58 to 70 million target population, Malacañang said on Thursday.  (MNS)

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