Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Philippines shifts to ‘new normal’ with masks only



Philippines shifts to ‘new normal’ with masks only

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
People crowd a street filled with stores as they shop in Manila on February 4 after authorities issued relaxation of Covid rules. AFP

Philippines shifts to ‘new normal’ with masks only

The Philippines is shifting to a “new normal” in March, with masks essentially the only restriction left to guard against the spread of the coronavirus.

The government’s task force against Covid-19 announced on Sunday that Metro Manila – an urban sprawl of 16 cities and home to over 13 million – will be under alert level 1 starting on March 1. It is the least restrictive under a four-level system.

The rest of the country will either be under alert level 1 or 2.

Alert level 1 is seen as an “in-between phase”, where the pandemic is no longer treated like a health emergency as it was two years ago, but still not yet at that point where the disease can be considered endemic.

The mask mandate will stay, and only those with proof of vaccination can move about. Health protocols – testing and quarantine – will also remain.

However, the authorities will lift all limits on the use of public space and transportation, as well as seating capacities for all retail, service and leisure businesses.

This means hotels, restaurants, cinemas, gyms, bars and concert halls will be able to operate at full capacity. Limits on conventions, exhibits, indoor gatherings and sports events are likewise being lifted.

Employers may also ask all their employees to return to the office, though they may still opt for flexible and alternative work arrangements.

Church services, including weddings, funerals and masses, will likewise be at full capacity.

There was no announcement yet concerning schools, which have been shut for over two years, though thousands of public schools have already started pilot in-person classes.

Since early last month, the Philippines has been gradually easing its quarantine restrictions, which two years ago were among the most restrictive in the world.

The country has already reopened its borders to all fully vaccinated tourists.

New cases have plunged in recent weeks to around 1,000 a day, from up to 40,000 at the height of an outbreak fuelled by the Omicron variant just a month ago.

Infections in Metro Manila have plunged to less than 300, from as high as 11,000 the previous month.

The positivity rate has slipped below the World Health Organisation’s 5 per cent threshold.

Close to 70 per cent of the Philippines’ population of some 110 million have been fully vaccinated. Less than half of hospital beds are in use.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire had said Filipinos would eventually have to “move on and live with the virus”.

THE STRAITS TIMES/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Pursat Ford assembly plant opens

    The Kingdom’s first Ford assembly plant was inaugurated on June 16 in Pursat province amid rising demand for brand-new vehicles among Cambodians. The facility is seen as a game changer for the domestic automobile industry, which could bring a wave of investors seeking to cash

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • $50B infrastructure plan en route

    The government’s upcoming $50 billion,10-year infrastructure master plan will provide tremendous investment opportunities for domestic and foreign entities, transport experts and economists say. Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol revealed the plan to Japanese ambassador to Cambodia Masahiro Mikami on June 15. At

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro