THE Health department on Friday reported 7,103 new cases of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the highest daily tally since the start of the pandemic.

“Recorded today is the highest number of COVID-19 cases which is why the DoH (Department of Health) continuously calls for everyone to stay in our homes and avoid going out if it is not necessary,” the department said in a statement in Filipino.

The previous highest daily tally was 6,958 recorded on August 10, 2020.

Prior to the release of the coronavirus daily count, the government announced earlier on Friday renewed restrictions on leisure establishments, gatherings, and international travel due to a fresh surge in infections over the last two weeks.

The inter-agency task force leading the country’s pandemic response issued its latest resolution that will be in effect from March 19 to April 4 in the capital region and other areas under a general lockdown, or officially labelled as general community quarantine (GCQ).

Presidential Spokesman Hermino L. Roque, Jr. announced in a virtual press briefing that the new rules include suspension of the operations of driving schools, traditional cinemas, video and interactive- game arcades, cultural centers, and establishments accredited by the Tourism department.

The Department of Trade and Industry released complementary guidelines on Friday, which also covers tourist attractions except those that have an open air

Meetings, conferences and exhibitions will be limited to essential business gatherings at 30% capacity of venues in areas under GCQ, Mr. Roque said.

Religious gatherings will also be limited to 30% venue capacity, “provided that there is no objection from the local governments where the religious gathering may take place,” he said.

Mr. Roque said a 50% venue capacity limit will be re-imposed in dine-in restaurants, cafes, and personal care services in GCQ areas.

Government agencies are encouraged to postpone non-critical activities that would entail mass gatherings, he said.

Cockfighting and cockpit operations are also suspended.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, in Viber message to reporters Friday, said the uptrend in COVID-19 cases is “certainly not helping” the economy’s recovery.

For inbound international passengers, all Filipino citizens and their foreign spouses and children travelling with them, and those on emergency and humanitarian grounds will be allowed entry.

Foreign nationals who can enter will be limited to diplomats and international organization members and their dependents, those involved in medical repatriation, and foreign seafarers for crew change.

The travel restriction will be in effect from March 22 to April 21, based on the
memorandum circular released by that national task force on Friday.

The task force had previously banned returning Filipinos who are not migrant workers along with most foreign nationals from traveling to the country as COVID-19 cases in the country saw a renewed surge.

The month-long travel restrictions are also subject to the arrival quota set at ports of entry.

The Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the country’s main gateway, will only accept 1,500 passengers per day from March 18 to April 19, the Civil Aeronautics Board said on Monday.

Flag-carrier Philippine Airlines, in compliance to the rules, said on Friday that it cancelled several international flights scheduled on March 19 to March 31, and plans to announce additional cancellations.

The company said customers can request rebooking or refunds without penalty fees or store their ticket amount in a travel fund.

As of March 19, coronavirus cases has reached 648,066, of which 73,264 or around 11% are active.

The DoH also reported 13 additional deaths, bringing the total death tally to 12,900. The number of new recoveries was 390 for a total of 561,902.

Over 93% of the active cases are classified as mild while 3.3% are asymptomatic. Severe, critical, and moderate cases are at 1.1%, .10%, and 0.59%, respectively, according to the DoH.

The OCTA Research Group from the University of the Philippines earlier said the transmission level in Metro Manila had reached its highest level since May last year.

Government-run and private hospitals in the capital region as well as several other regions are at or nearing critical levels in terms of capacity.

As of March 18, the five regions with the highest number of cases are the National Capital Region, its neighboring Calabarzon (Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon) and Central Luzon, Central Visayas, and Western Visayas.

Public Works Secretary Mark A. Villar also said on Friday that half of the beds in Metro Manila’s quarantine facilities were already occupied.

Nationwide, however, the usage rate of these facilities was at 16%.

Mr. Villar, who also serves as the country’s isolation czar, said an additional 700 facilities with more than 26,000 beds will be constructed by next month.

A pop-up hospital dedicated for severe coronavirus cases will soon be operational at the Quezon Institute, he added.

Mr. Villar said about 602 facilities with more than 22,350 beds have been established so far.

“We will continue to plan for more facilities as the need arises,” he said. — Gillian M. Cortez, Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, and Jenina P. Ibañez