BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in Negros Occidental has ordered the strict implementation of health protocols in all ferry vessels originating from Metro Manila.
The order was issued following the declaration of the National Inter-Agency Task Force (NIATF) placing the whole National Capital Region and neighboring provinces under Alert Level 3.
But Negros Occidental and highly-urbanized Bacolod City have remained under Alert Level 2, while Iloilo City is now under Alert Level 3.
In a Sea Travel Advisory signed by PCG-Negros Occidental station commander and Coast Guard District Western Visayas deputy commander Captain Ludovico Librilla, all passenger ships must strictly observe the authorized passenger capacity of 70 percent as per advisory No. 2021-577 of the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA).
Passengers inside the vessel must also observe the one-meter physical distance requirement. Ferry operators were also reminded that hand sanitizers and other disinfectants must be available at all times.
The ferry crews must also carry out proper disinfection procedures regularly and everyone is ordered to properly wear their face masks.
There are presently no travel restrictions between Manila and Negros Occidental.
However, Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson already warned on Monday that travel restrictions may be imposed again if the number of COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila continue to go up.
The Department of Health has detected one case each of the COVID-19 Omicron variant infection in the cities of Bacolod and Iloilo.
Independent pandemic monitor Octa Research yesterday said that new COVID-19 cases recorded per day may hit 20,000 or more by next week based on current trends of the virus in the country.
Octa fellow Dr. Guido David said daily new cases may reach five digits on Wednesday, with about 10,000 to 11,000 cases seen to be recorded, of which 8,000 are in Metro Manila.*