With new COVID cases surging, several areas outside Metro Manila have reverted to stricter quarantines. Davao City, where daily cases have reportedly risen by 69 percent in the past week, has reverted to modified enhanced community quarantine while General Santos City, where daily cases have risen by 19 percent, is now under general community quarantine.

The case spikes show how unpredictable COVID-19 continues to behave, especially with the spread of more virulent variants, first in the National Capital Region and four neighboring provinces, and now across the country. With virus transmission slowing down in the so-called NCR Plus, however, travel restrictions for people from the region are being eased, and even leisure trips are being allowed for entire families including the elderly and children.

The surges outside the NCR Plus should sound the alarm over complacency. Local governments in areas that sought the easing of restrictions particularly for leisure travel must remember that they will bear the health and economic consequences if certain activities are revived without the full enforcement of pandemic protocols. Health care capacities can quickly become overwhelmed.

Allowing the reopening of swimming destinations, for example, is great news for the operators of the establishments plus the downstream enterprises. Can local government units, however, enforce the capacity limits especially in private resorts?

Despite all the rosy announcements by the government of more COVID vaccines set to be rolled out, the reality is that the jabs are still arriving in trickles, and only a tiny fraction of the population has been inoculated against this deadly disease. The country is still a long way from achieving herd immunity to allow the full reopening of the economy.

Travelers from the NCR, epicenter of the pandemic, are seen by experts to have spread the virus outside the capital. Even with infections slowing down in the NCR, the country cannot afford to let down its guard. Jubilation over the resumption of tourism could change overnight to despair as lockdowns resume, and even mourning as COVID-19 claims more lives. After over a year of battling the pandemic, there is still no room for complacency.