NO VAX CARD, NO ENTRY: Law enforcers of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) check for vaccination cards at the gates of the Subic Bay Freeport on Monday (Jan. 10, 2022). The agency began enforcing stricter border controls amid the Covid-19 surge. (Photo by Ruben Veloria)

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT – The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) on Monday imposed stricter border control, requiring all persons entering Subic Bay Freeport to show vaccination cards to prevent the further spread of Covid-19 in the area.

SBMA chairman and administrator Wilma T. Eisma said the stricter measures were made after the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) placed Olongapo City, along with Zambales, Bataan, and 11 other areas in the country, under Alert Level 3 late last week.

Under the new guidelines, SBMA allows interzonal travel and intrazonal movement in Subic only upon presentation of vaccination certificate showing completed doses.

The unvaccinated persons would have to show negative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test results taken 24 hours prior to arrival in Subic, Eisma said.

Subic, which logged zero Covid-19 cases among its residents until Christmas day, had reported a total of 36 active cases just after the holidays.

“The rate of increase—36 cases in just two weeks—is quite alarming, so in consonance with IATF resolutions, we have put in place stricter border controls and prohibited certain activities that could further spread the virus,” Eisma said in a media interview.

“I have ordered our law enforcement officers to be thorough in checking for vaccination cards at the gates because we cannot afford another lockdown that would curtail business and industry in Subic. We have to be strict because we have to keep the local economy running, too,” she added.

Eisma said the SBMA has considered interzonal travel as high risk because eight of its recently recorded Covid-19 cases involved residents who have traveled to Metro Manila, while five of them have visited other areas.

She said data from SBMA Public Health and Safety Department showed that these 13 travelers had, in turn, transmitted the virus to 12 close contacts. Two others were infected after receiving visitors from outside Subic.

Aside from requiring vaccination cards, she said the SBMA also limited the access of some public areas only to fully vaccinated individuals.

These include venues for meetings and social events, amusement parks and recreation venues, visitor or tourist attractions, venues for in-person religious gatherings, as well as restaurants, and gyms and personal care shops, which are allowed to operate at 30 percent of their indoor capacity and 50 percent for outdoors.

Unvaccinated persons, however, may be allowed in supermarkets and groceries but “only for the purpose of accessing essential goods and services”.

The SBMA allows 70 percent maximum capacity for public transportation; 30 percent indoor capacity for face-to-face classes in higher education schools; and 60 percent on-site capacity for government offices.

The operation of karaoke bars, indoor entertainment venues, kid amusement places, and venues for contact sports except in a bubble-type setup is prohibited.

Eisma said the Subic agency will enforce other measures that will arrest the current surge of Covid-19 cases in the greater Subic Bay area while encouraging stakeholders to get vaccinated for either basic doses or booster shots.

“We intend to contain this upsurge with vaccines and sound science behind basic safety protocols like masking, hand washing, and social distancing,” she added. (PNA)