The Philippine National Police has established checkpoints in strategic areas of the so-called "NCR plus" that include Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal, and nearby provinces bordering them.
In an interview with GMA's "Unang Hirit" Monday, PNP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ildebrandi Usana said the border control would be enforced by checkpoints inside and outside the boundaries of areas under general community quarantine (GCQ).
“The outbreak region is actually in NCR. The national government decided to expand the boundary to these four provinces to contain the spread of the disease,” he said.
The four provinces under Region 4-A are placed under general community quarantine, joining Metro Manila, from March 22 to April 4, to limit the spread of coronavirus infections.
Under this status, only essential workers from non-GCQ areas are allowed to enter but they would need to present identification to prove that they belong under the list of workers allowed to travel.
"'Checkpoints are set up in NCR boundaries and strategic areas. Outside the boundaries, we have border control, so we can check who are entering NCR plus. If they are essential workers, they are allowed to enter but if not, they would have to go back," Usana said.
Meanwhile, National Task Force Against COVID-19 chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said the Philippines was more equipped in confronting the challenges posed by the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.
"We have been here before but we are not back to square one. We are in much better shape now and more equipped in dealing and handling this virus," Galvez said in a statement.
"Your government is continuously monitoring the development and the mutations of the disease to ensure that we will be able to protect our health care system and prevent it from being overwhelmed," he added.
Usana said the protocols in checkpoints have been in place and police would just coordinate with local government units for adjustment on the restrictions.
As the Holy Week approaches, Usana urged the public to hold off their vacation plans and instead stay at home to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Under the new general community quarantine restrictions, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal will be joining Metro Manila under the GCQ classification.
Under the Inter-Agency Task Force Resolution 104, only essential travel into and out of Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal will be allowed. Called a “travel bubble”, residents will only be allowed to travel within their respective provinces.
During the Laging Handa briefing, Interior Undersecretary and spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said even though there was no border control between Metro Manila and the four provinces, the public was still "highly discouraged" to go out.
Meantime, the Department of Transportation said while transport to and from these areas was restricted, public transport policies still applied, including the 30-40 percent loading capacity for railways and 75 percent for public utility vehicles such as jeepneys and buses.
“Current transport capacity in public transportation will not change. We ask the public to bike or walk instead,” the DOTr said in a statement.
Public transport commuters are reminded of the health protocols such as wearing of face mask and shield, no talking, no eating, ensuring proper ventilation in public utility vehicles, regular disinfection, barring those with COVID-19 symptoms from boarding, and observing “appropriate” physical distancing.
Those below 18 years old and those 65 years old and above are advised to stay at home, as well as the immunodeficient, those feeling sick or with other health risks, and those pregnant.
“Exemptions to this is if travel is necessary for reasons such as buying or receiving essential goods and services and work or industry-related travel,” the DOTr said.
Domestic flights remain allowed in GCQ areas.
However, only “essential” travel is allowed in airports and for passengers considered an authorized person outside of residence.
“Any leisure or tourist travels going from or to GCQ areas are not allowed from March 22 to April 4, 2021,” the DOTr said.
On Sunday, the Department of Health reported 7,757 new confirmed cases and 39 new deaths while 15,288 more patients recovered from COVID-19.
Like a familiar refrain, Galvez called on the public to continue adhering to the minimum public health standards as the government enforced "decisive and drastic measures" to prevent the further spread of the infection.
Safety measures include scaling down the number of people reporting to various offices and entering business establishments as well as capping the entry of inbound international passengers to 1,500 until April 21.
Local government units can impose “granular lockdowns” when necessary.
"In terms of contact tracing, efforts to re-capacitate our LGUs through the Department of Interior and Local Government and assistance from the World Health Organization are now being conducted to ensure that expanded contact tracing up to second and third generations contact will be implemented across the country," he said.
Meanwhile, Galvez explained that various vaccine manufacturers were scrambling to produce enough supplies.
"Vaccine manufacturers are having difficulty in scaling up their vaccine productions since some countries such as the US are banning the export of raw materials, which is deeply affecting the global supply in the first semester of this year," he said.
Despite the limited global supply of COVID-19 vaccines, Galvez said the government remained steadfast to push an orderly system for the national vaccination program.
The Philippines is slated to receive 2.3 million doses of vaccines towards the end March until early April, Galvez said.
The alarming rise of the deadly COVID-19 in the metropolis has forced the Armed Forces hierarchy to enforce a lockdown inside Camp Aguinaldo, a move to prevent further spread of the virus.
AFP spokesperson Major Gen. Edgard Arevalo said the lockdown took effect 8 a.m. Monday following the directive of AFP Chief of Staff Cirilito Sobejana in response to the 83 fresh COVID cases among its personnel.
At present, the AFP has recorded 7, 342 cases of COVID infection among military personnel in different miliary camps with 870 active cases, 6,424 recoveries, and 48 deaths.
Arevalo said the lockdown in Camp Aguinaldo would remain in effect “ until the rise of COVID-19 infection had been contained and the health situation had improved.
The measure will restrict the entry and exit of all AFP personnel and workers in concessionaires as well as workers inside the General Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo.
The lockdown in the National Police Commission Center in Quezon City has been extended from March 22, Monday, until March 26, Friday, after more COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the agency.
Napolcom vice chairman and executive officer Vitaliano Aguirre II said in an advisory the lockdown would be extended to conduct further contact tracing and to prevent more transmission of the coronavirus in the workplace.
On March 17, Napolcom initially announced a three-day lockdown at its central office after some of its employees tested positive for COVID-19.
Concerned Napolcom personnel are on work-from-home status.
DOJ cases rise
The Department of Justice said the number of active coronavirus 2019 cases at the department increased to 45, while the Supreme Court had 33 active cases.
Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar said of the 45 cases, two were now confined in a hospital, while eight others were in quarantine facilities.
Villar said the rest of those COVID-19 positive were undergoing home quarantine.
The offices at DOJ main office along Padre Faura St., in Manila remains under lockdown until today (March 23) as a measure to control the spread of COVID-19 among its employees.
Last March 20, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra expressed alarm over the rising cases of COVID-19 infections at the DOJ, saying he will wait for recommendations for the possible extension of the lockdown beyond March 23.
Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara said at this stage with close to 8000 cases a day and with the hospital COVID wings filling up again, "we have little choice."
"We have to take steps to stop the rapid spread of the virus," added Angara.
"I said it before and I'll say it again. It is area-specific and time-bound. Thus, areas with unusually high COVID-19 cases are now under GCQ bubble from March 22 to April 4, said Sen. Panfilo Lacson.
He hopes adjustments will be made depending on changing conditions.
"Next time they should make the announcement earlier to allow business to adjust their planned activities accordingly. In any case, continuing assessment is key. That's how it works," he said
Amid the rise in COVID-19 cases, the Bureau of Immigration warned that arriving aliens with fake quarantine bookings might not be allowed entry and deported to their port of origin.
Morente issued the warning following the implementation of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases resolution suspending the travel of foreign nationals into the Philippines.
“Only certain classes of foreign nationals will be allowed starting today, until April 21,” said Morente. “Despite this, we will still deport aliens who try to evade quarantine,” he added.
He warned that they would be strictly implementing the rule to deport foreign nationals who will be submitting fake quarantine bookings.
Morente stated that they will be doubly strict in ensuring foreign nationals submit valid and legitimate quarantine bookings, given the surge of COVID-19 cases in the country. With PNA