GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – General Santos Mayor Ronnel Rivera said the city government would start imposing stricter measures next week due to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases and the threat posed by its more transmissible Omicron variant.
Rivera’s announcement came on Friday, January 14, as the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) placed General Santos City and South Cotabato province – both in the Soccsksargen region – under Alert Level 3 from January 16 until January 31.
Rivera said stricter measures were needed to prevent more infections in the city. He said local officials recommended that the city and nearby South Cotabato be placed under a stricter alert level.
When a city or province is placed under Alert Level 3, it means COVID-19 cases are high or increasing and starting to take a toll on its total hospital bed and intensive care unit capacities.
On Thursday, January 13 alone, the city listed 80 new COVID-19 cases, up from 37 the day before.
South Cotabato logged 47 new cases on Thursday, 22 of which were in Polomolok town. The other provinces in the Soccsksargen region – Sarangani, Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat – remain under Alert Level 2.
Ahead of this, authorities have imposed stricter rules on travelers since January 11. No one is allowed to step out of the General Santos City Airport unless they present documents to prove they have been vaccinated and tested negative for COVID-19.
Airport manager Joel Gavina said the only people exempted from these rules are those with medical conditions or if their religious beliefs prohibit them from being vaccinated.
“They, however, must present duly notarized documents for such,” he said.
Children ages 12 years and younger are not allowed at the airport premises unless they are passengers. But many establishments in General Santos such as banks no longer allow the unvaccinated in their premises. – Rappler.com
Rommel Rebollido is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship