Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chair Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos, Jr. (File photo)

MANILA – There will soon be enhanced restrictions regulating the movement of individuals still unvaccinated against Covid-19 in the National Capital Region (NCR) as agreed upon by the Metro Manila Council (MMC).

In a virtual presser on Monday, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chair Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos Jr. said MMDA Resolution No. 22-01, series of 2022, urges local government units (LGU) to enact ordinances for “enhanced restriction” on unvaccinated individuals.

Abalos said the resolution has been agreed upon “in principle” by the MMC -- composed of the 17 mayors in NCR and the MMDA -- in a meeting that included members of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).

“Ito ay pinakita namin sa mga meeting namin kahapon [Jan. 2, 2022] sa mga alkalde ng Metro Manila. In principle, nagbotohan kami rito, subject to form and style, at ito ay inaprubahan nila (This has been presented in a meeting yesterday with Metro Manila mayors. In principle, we have voted, subject to form and style, it’s already been approved),” Abalos said.

Due to the rising cases of Covid-19 and the threat of the Omicron variant, the resolution urged LGUs to mandate unvaccinated individuals to remain in their residences at all times except for the procurement of essential goods and services such as food, water, medical services, public utilities, and work.

The NCR is now under the stricter Alert Level 3 until January 15.

“Parang nag-ECQ [Enhanced Community Quarantine] pero only for the unvaccinated. For their own protection. Dapat nasa bahay lang sila (It’s like having an ECQ but only for the unvaccinated. It’s for their own protection. They should remain at home),” Abalos said.

Individual outdoor exercise is still allowed for all individuals regardless of vaccination status, age, or comorbidities within “the general area of their residence, e. g., within the barangay, purok, subdivision, or village subject to the guidelines of the Metro Manila local government units.”

Moreover, the unvaccinated are prohibited from indoor and outdoor/al fresco dining in restaurants and other food establishments and from “leisure and social trips to malls, hotels, event venues, sports, and country clubs, and similar facilities.”

They are also prohibited to travel via public transportation “by land, sea, and air” except for the procurement of essential goods and services.

As stated in an earlier resolution from the IATF, the unvaccinated are required to undergo a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test every two weeks at their personal expense and present a Covid-19 negative result prior to being admitted for work onsite.

“In the event that the RT-PCR test and/or result is/are not immediately available, a Rapid Antigen Test may be utilized in lieu thereof,” the resolution read.

The resolution also covers individuals who reside outside NCR but who work and/or travel to the region.

These restrictions, it said, are part of the government’s efforts to “forestall and immediately address” the perceived impact of rising Covid-19 cases and the highly-transmissible Omicron variant.

“The advances in public health and the economic gains that have been achieved in the recent months under Alert Level 2 must be sustained and preemptive measures must be adopted,” the resolution read.

It cited Republic Act 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Disease and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act that it is “the policy of the State to protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness among them.”

Any individual or establishment found in violating this resolution can be prosecuted and may face fines and penalties under Republic Act 11332 -- a fine of not less than PHP20,000 but not more than PHP50,000 or imprisonment of not less than one month but not more than six months at the discretion of the proper court.

“Furthermore, any individual or establishment who or which will falsify the Covid-19 vaccine card shall e prosecuted under Act 3815 or the Revised Penal Code, as amended, pursuant to Section 12 of Republic Act 11525 or the Covid-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021,” the resolution read.

Abalos said these restrictions are only “temporary” and will only be lifted once the Covid-19 alert level in NCR is at Alert Level 2 or below.

“Ito'y temporary lamang. Ito'y habang nasa Alert Level 3 tayo o mas mataas para maproteksyunan din yung mga walang bakuna. Sana maunawaan po ng lahat ito (This is only temporary. Only while we’re at Alert Level 3 or higher to protect those who have not been vaccinated. I hope everyone understands),” Abalos said. (PNA)