SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has started checking for vaccination cards among persons entering the Subic Bay Freeport to prevent further transmission of COVID-19 in the area and maintain the health and safety of stakeholders in this vital economic zone.
SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma said this is just one of the stricter measures implemented by the Subic agency after the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) placed Olongapo City, along with Zambales, Bataan and 11 other areas in the country, under Alert Level 3.
Under the new SBMA guidelines, interzonal travel and intrazonal movement are allowed in Subic upon presentation of vaccination certificate showing completed doses. Meanwhile, unvaccinated persons would have to show negative RT-PCR test results taken within 24 hours prior to arrival in Subic, Eisma said.
Subic, which boasted of 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.
“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 the recent COVID-19 cases in the Freeport involved residents who reported travel to Metro Manila, while five said having visited other areas outside of the Freeport.
She added that monitoring by the SBMA Public Health and Safety Department showed that these 13 travelers had, in turn, transmitted the virus to 12 close contacts. Still two others were infected after receiving visitors from outside Subic.
Eisma said that aside from requiring vaccination cards at the gates, 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 should all take in customers at 30% of their indoor capacity and 50% for outdoors.
Unvaccinated persons, however, may be allowed in supermarkets and groceries where 30% maximum capacity should be maintained, and inside malls but “only for the purpose of accessing essential goods and services,” the SBMA chief said.
At the same time, the SBMA allowed 70% maximum capacity for public transportation; 30% indoor capacity for face-to-face classes in higher schools; and 60% on-site capacity for government offices.
Meanwhile, the SBMA prohibited the operation of karaoke bars, indoor entertainment venues, kid amusement places, and venues for contact sports except in bubble-type setup.
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, handwashing and social distancing,” Eisma added.