Philippines tightens Covid-19 quarantine rules in capital over Omicron

People wait to ride a bus going to the provinces in the Philippines, at a bus terminal in Paranaque City, Metro Manila, on Dec 30, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

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 Omicron variant, the government said on Friday (Dec 31).

The metropolis of 13 million will be placed on the third-highest level of alert from Monday until Jan 15, under a new system that aims to balance the need to contain infections with the reopening of the Philippine economy, 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's spokesman Karlo Nograles told a news conference.

In-person classes and contact sports are suspended, he added, while localised lockdowns targeting specific buildings, streets and neighbourhoods will also be enforced.

Daily infections surged to a two-month high on Friday as the Christmas season and looser restrictions allowed family reunions and church services in the Catholic-majority nation.

"The epidemiological investigation on the three local cases indicates there is high possibility of local transmission of Omicron," Nograles said.

"In the coming days, we may see a spike in active cases."

The health department has warned of a "high probability of exponential growth" of coronavirus infections linked to the Omicron variant.

"We also have to keep our healthcare utilisation 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 has been under its second-lowest alert level since Dec 3, requiring most indoor venues to operate at 50 per cent capacity and allowing limited in-person classes.

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