Philippines toughens quarantine rules in capital against Omicron

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Manila (AFP) – The Philippines will tighten coronavirus restrictions in the capital Manila over fears of an “exponential growth” in cases due to the highly contagious variant of Omicron, the government said on Friday.

The metropolis of 13 million people will be placed on the third highest alert level from Monday to January 15, as part of a new system that aims to balance the need to contain infections with the reopening of the economy Philippines, which has been hit hard by the virus.

Restaurants, parks, churches and beauty salons will open at lower capacities to limit mobility, President Rodrigo Duterte spokesman Karlo Nograles said at a press conference.

In-person classes and contact sports are suspended, he added, while localized locks targeting specific buildings, streets and neighborhoods will also be applied.

Daily infections hit a two-month high on Friday as the Christmas season and looser restrictions allowed family reunions and church services in the predominantly Catholic country.

“The epidemiological investigation of the three local cases indicates that there is a strong possibility of local transmission of Omicron,” Nograles said.

“In the next few days, we might see a spike in active cases.”

The health ministry has warned of a “high probability of exponential growth” of coronavirus infections linked to the Omicron variant.

“We also need to keep our health care use at a manageable level. We can do this by working together to prevent the transmission of Covid-19,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque said.

The Philippines is under its second lowest alert level since December 3, forcing most inland sites to operate at 50% capacity and allowing limited in-person classes.

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