By Arjay L. Balinbin, Senior Reporter
and Vann Marlo M. Villegas, Reporter

DOMESTIC flights to and from the Philippine capital will be suspended again starting Tuesday after President Rodrigo R. Duterte put back Manila and nearby cities and provinces under a strict lockdown amid a fresh surge in coronavirus infections.

In a statement on Monday, the Manila International Airport Authority called on local airlines to inform their passengers about rebooking given the temporary suspension of domestic flights in and out of Manila under a modified enhanced community quarantine.

Flag Carrier Philippine Airlines and budget airline Cebu Pacific were expected to release flight cancellation advisories on Monday.

AirAsia Philippines would cancel its domestic flights to and from the capital, spokesman David F. de Castro said by telephone.

International flights including those to and from Clark, Pampanga province were also being reviewed, he said.

The Department of Health reported 3,226 new coronavirus infections on Monday, bringing the total to 106,330.

The death toll rose to 2,104 after 46 more patients died, while recoveries increased by 275 to 65,821, it said in a bulletin.

Of the new cases, 1,541 were from Metro Manila, 503 were from Cebu, 181 were from Laguna, 158 were from Rizal and 129 were from Cavite.

There were 38,405 active cases, 90% of which were mild, 8% were critical, and less 1% each were severe and 0.9% were severe, and 0.6% were critical.

Of the 46 patients who died, 38 were from Central Visayas, three were from Metro Manila, two were from the Cordillera Administrative Region and one each from Central Luzon, Central Visayas, and Calabarzon.

The DoH said more than 1.4 million people had been tested for COVID-19.

In a separate Viber post, the agency said the death rate was at 1.98%, lower than the global rate of 3.77%. The infection rate was at 9.55%, higher than the World Health Organization’s 5% benchmark.

The reproduction number of the disease as of July 12 was “faring better” at 0.958, which means an person can infect one more person.

DoH also said that it takes 9 days for cases to double and 13 days for deaths to double.

Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal will revert to a strict lockdown for two weeks starting Aug. 4, Mr. Duterte announced late Sunday after a Cabinet meeting.

Health practitioners urged the government at the weekend to reimpose the strict lockdown, saying the country’s health system was being overwhelmed. It would also allow the government to refine its pandemic control strategies, according to the Philippine College of Physicians.

Local airlines had planned to mount more flights, especially international flights, this month to stay afloat amid the global health crisis.

The airline industry was among the hardest hit during the pandemic as countries restricted travel to contain the virus that has sickened 18.2 million and killed almost 700,000 people worldwide.

In April, the Air Carriers Association of the Philippines said local airlines had lost P7 billion a month during the lockdown, apart from P4 billion in losses due to travel refunds.

Commercial passenger flights resumed in June after being idle since mid-March when only cargo flights had been allowed.

Meanwhile, the Department of Public Works and Highways said it would add more quarantine facilities in the National Capital Region.

Twenty-three more COVID-19 quarantine facilities in Metro Manila were being built and would be finished by the end of the month, it said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health (DoH) said reverting to a strict lockdown would buy it time to manage active coronavirus cases.

The agency asked the public to observe standard health practices and avoid going out unless necessary.

“We need our health care workers to take care of those who need to be cared for,” it said in a statement. “So we need to take care of our health care workers, who are the backbone of our pandemic response.”

In a separate statement, DoH said it would present a recalibrated strategy against the virus on Aug. 8.

It also appealed to health workers in the provinces and those coming home from overseas, universities and medical societies to heed the government’s call for more workers.

Hazard pay, accommodation, transportation and personal protective equipment will be provided, it said.