Because of the increasing number of new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases in the area, provinces in the north-central part of Luzon will be placed under a stricter community quarantine, the presidential palace said on Friday.

This, after the Department of Health (DoH) flagged the rise of coronavirus cases in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), with the COVID-19 hospital bed utilization rate nearing “moderate-risk” level.

In a televised news briefing, Presidential Spokesman Harry L. Roque, Jr. said the entire region of the Cordillera will be placed under general community quarantine (GCQ) starting Feb. 1, joining Metro Manila and other cities with high rates of COVID-19 infections. The new quarantine classification is valid for the whole month of February.

The CAR is composed of Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Baguio City, Ifugao, Kalinga, and Mountain Province.

Other areas that will remain under GQC in February are Batangas, Davao Del Norte, Tacloban City, Davao City, and Iligan City.

The rest of the country, including Isabela and IloIlo which had been placed under GCQ in January, will be under the more lenient modified GCQ, Mr. Roque said.

At the same briefing, Trade chief Ramon M. Lopez said Metro Manila loses about P700 million in ungenerated wages “every day it is placed under GCQ.”

He said it is likely that restrictions in the capital region will be further relaxed by March if the coronavirus disease case numbers continue to decline.

Meanwhile, Philippine ambassador to Washington Jose Manuel Romualdez said at a forum that the Philippine government was able to seal deals with three American drugmakers — Novavax, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson — for 30 million doses, 20 million doses, and six million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, respectively.

Case closed

Also on Friday, the DoH said the case of a Filipino domestic helper in Hong Kong who had been found to have a more contagious strain of COVID-19 is considered closed since all of her close contacts in the country have tested negative for the virus.

“All who have undergone genome sequencing have tested negative for the UK variant, that is why the case is closed already,” DoH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told an online press briefing in mixed English and Filipino.

However, it is still unclear whether the Filipina contracted the virus in the Philippines or Hong Kong.

“It is still uncertain because we were not able to test everybody. We have not been able to test those who had been with her on the flight,” she said. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza