President Rodrigo Duterte has extended the General Community Quarantine with restrictions for the NCR Plus area for the entire month of June, while 13 other areas were placed under the stricter Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine, including seven from Mindanao, which logged a "faster rate" of COVID-19 case surges.
In a public address late Monday night, the President also announced the country will donate $1 million to the COVAX Facility.
"It is now our turn to return the goodwill they have shown," Duterte said.
The COVAX Facility is a global initiative to support early vaccine access for 92 countries, including the Philippines, which received AstraZeneca and Pfizer jabs.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said more than 5 million COVID-19 vaccines have already been administered as of Monday.
Duterte said the following areas will be under GCQ: NCR Plus (Metro Manila, Cavite, Rizal, Laguna and Bulacan), Kalinga, Mountain Province, Abra, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Batangas, Quezon, Iligan City, Davao City, Lanao del Sur and Cotabato City.
The areas that will be under the more restrictive MECQ from June 1 to 15 are the City of Santiago in Cagayan, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Puerto Princesa City, Iloilo City, Zamboanga City, Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, Cagayan de Oro City, Butuan City, and Agusan del Sur.
The rest of the country will be under a Modified GCQ.
"The number of cases at Greater Manila Area/NCR Plus is plateauing, but Mindanao cases are increasing at a faster rate. Visayas is seeing a gradual increase," Duque said.
Mindanao recorded 1,485 new cases per day between May 25 to 31, while Visayas logged 863 per day for the same period.
To stem the transmission and inch closer toward achieving herd immunity before the year ends, the government will start vaccinating qualified individuals under the A4 priority group this month, including those who work outside their homes and government workers.
Under the guidelines of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), those eligible for vaccination include private sector workers required to be physically present at their workplace outside their residences; employees in government agencies and instrumentalities; and informal sector workers and self-employed who may be required to work outside their residences, and those working in private households.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said local government units may prioritize vaccinating economic front-liners aged 40 to 59.
Roque encouraged those belonging to A1 to A3 priority groups to also get vaccinated against COVID-19 and refrain from being choosy over vaccine brands.
“The most effective vaccine is the vaccine that is available,” he said.
Meanwhile, presidential adviser for entrepreneurship Joey Conception said the private sector is already thinking about what quantities of a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine might be needed, if the jabs have to be administered annually.
The private sector, he said, is working on increasing people’s confidence in vaccines, noting that most of the resistance to vaccines is coming from the poor.
He said the government should allow greater mobility for those who have been vaccinated.
“They (vaccinated people) should be allowed to go out. People who want to travel to different domestic areas in our country should be allowed to travel,” Concepcion said.
In a radio interview, Concepcion also said the delivery of AstraZeneca vaccines procured by the private sector would be delayed by as much as four weeks.
About 1.17 million doses will arrive by July 14 instead of the fourth week of June, Concepcion told Teleradyo.
In other developments:
* Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairperson Benhur Abalos said that the management of COVID-19 vaccines is "calculated" amid concerns that some stored doses will soon expire. At a Palace press briefing, Abalos noted that no doses of COVID-19 vaccine have expired so far. He said that when a supply of vaccines arrives, the bulk is considered for first doses, while some doses would be set aside for the second shot.
* The Palace said at least 3.4 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines from Sinovac, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna will be delivered in the Philippines in June, Malacañang said. Roque said the government is targeting to vaccinate 10 million Filipino people by the middle of the year as the bulk of Sputnik, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca orders arrive within June.
* The national vaccination program is hoping to reach 10 million doses by the middle of the year as the bulk of Sputnik, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca orders arrive within June. On June 6, one million doses of China’s Sinovac are expected while 1.3 million and 900,000 US-made Pfizer jabs are arriving on June 7 and 11, respectively. Moderna vaccines, also from the US, are scheduled for delivery on June 21.
* The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Monday said it will also deploy its Medical Reserve Force (MRF) to help speed up the COVID-19 vaccination drive in some areas that may require assistance.