Presidential Spokesperson and Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque Jr announced the IATF decision to reduce the venue capacity for some activities and industries, and to suspend the operations of industries that were previously opened or allowed to operate.
“Binawi po natin yung mga binuksan nating mga industriya,” said Secretary Roque in a press briefing on March 19, 2021.
Secretary Roque said that because of rising COVID-19 cases, the IATF decided to temporarily suspend in areas under General Community Quarantine until April 4, 2021, the operation of driving schools, traditional cinemas, videos and interactive game arcades, libraries, archives, museums and cultural centers. Also suspended are limited social events in accredited establishments that were approved by the Department of Tourism, as well as limited tourist attractions, except for open-air tourist attractions, said Secretary Roque.
Similarly, meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions or MICE events will be limited to essential business gatherings at 30 percent venue capacity, Sec. Roque said. In terms of religious gatherings, the Palace official said that it will be again limited to 30 percent venue capacity provided that there will be no objection from the local government unit (LGUs), as LGUs are given the discretion to allow higher venue capacity not exceeding 50 percent depending on conditions in their localities.
For dine-in restaurants, cafes, and personal care services, Sec. Roque said that capacity will be at maximum 50 percent. Meanwhile, the Palace spokesman said that national government agencies are encouraged to defer the conduct of non-critical activities that would entail mass gatherings. Lastly, Roque said that cockfighting and cockfighting operations are suspended even in areas under Modified General Community Quarantine.
Aside from the reduced capacities and suspended operations of some industries and activities, Roque said that the IATF also ratified recommendations on the temporary travel ban on foreign nationals and guidance on age-based restrictions—all in an effort to help curb the current spike in COVID-19 cases.
“Una po, lahat ng Filipino citizens – whether returning overseas Filipinos or overseas Filipino workers – ay pinapayagan makabalik ng Pilipinas. … Pangalawa, effective March 22, 2021 12:01AM hanggang April 21, 2021, 11:59PM, pansamantalang sinususpinde ang pagpasok ng mga dayuhan,” said Sec. Roque.
According to IATF Resolution No. 103, exemptions to the temporary suspension of foreign national arrivals will be the diplomats and members of international organizations and their dependents, foreigners involved in medical repatriations, foreign seafarers under the Green Lanes program for crew change, foreign spouses and children of Filipino citizens travelling with them, and emergency, humanitarian, and other analogous cases approved by the Chairperson of the National Task Force on COVID-19 (NTF) or his duly authorized representative. All of those who fall under the said exemptions should have valid visas at the time of entry, and that their entry is still subject to the daily limit of incoming passengers as may be imposed by the Department of Transportation.
Meanwhile, it was also decided that LGUs will retain the authority to impose a higher age limit for age-based restrictions for minors depending on the COVID-19 situation in their jurisdictions, said Roque. He added, “Ang Metro Manila Development Authority ay inatasan na mag-facilitate ng paglalagay ng reasonable at uniform exemptions ng mga lokal na pamahalaan sa National Capital Region.”
In the same IATF meeting yesterday, March 18, Roque said that also provisionally approved were the recommendations of the NTF Task Group Recovery Cluster on the Priority Group A4 of the National COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment Plan. The recommendations, he said, were based on the service provided for the public and level of exposure of those in the A4 priority group, which is made up of frontline workers in essential sectors.
Also in the same press briefing, NTF Chief Implementer and Vaccine Czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr confirmed that the contract with the Philippine government for the supply of 13 million doses of vaccines from Moderna, Inc and the 7 million doses from the contract with the private sector were both signed yesterday, March 18. Sec. Galvez said that Moderna committed to supply the country with their vaccines by the second quarter of this year.
Meanwhile, Isolation Czar and Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar reported that there are now 602 COVID facilities with 22,352 bed capacity, and that by next month, the number of COVID facilities is targeted to be at 720 with 26,099 beds. Sec. Villar also said that the pop-up hospital at the Quezon Institute with 110 beds will be operational soon to help increase bed capacity for COVID-19 cases.
In terms of testing, NTF Deputy Implementer and Testing Czar Secretary Vivencio Dizon reported that as of March 19, 2021, there are now 229 laboratories, and that actual tests per day is now at 50,294 as of March 2021. Sec. Dizon also said that there are now 9.5 million tests that have been done and that the target of 10 million tests by the first quarter of 2021 will be achieved soon, especially with the availability now of saliva testing.
On the treatment side, Treatment Czar and Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega said that compared to last year, the standard of care, treatment and experience in handling COVID-19 has improved. Usec Vega said that despite the increase in cases, the country now has improved health systems capacity to address whatever may happen in the current COVID-19 situation. ### OPS-PCOO