MANILA (UPDATE) - The alert level system imposing COVID-19 restrictions will stay in preparation for possible surges of infection brought by a new variant of concern, Malacañang said Wednesday.
Vaccination against the coronavirus also still needs to be ramped up in other regions, acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles said.
"'Di natin tatanggalin ang alert level system. Just in case a new variant of concern or interest would come, maibabalik natin agad sa Alert Level 2," he told ANC's Headstart.
(We will not remove the alert level system. Just in case a new variant of concern or interest would come, we can return to Alert Level 2.)
"Hindi pa panahon para tanggalin ang alert level system. Sa NCR (National Capital Region), yes okay lang, mataas ang ating vaccination. But we still have to ramp up vaccination sa ibang regions, although we're seeing very, very good numbers now in the regions."
(It's not yet time to remove the alert level system. NCR is okay, we have high vaccination. But we still have to ramp up vaccination in other regions, although we're seeing very, very good numbers now in the regions.)
A sub-technical working group is tasked to draft guidelines for the country's pandemic exit plan, Nograles said.
"We have to wait for what the health experts will tell us. Even the health experts are still wary. Of course, they're optimistic na papunta na sa parang flu, parang seasonal na (that we're now on our way to seeing COVID as just how flu is, as being just seasonal) because of what they saw with omicron, how the vaccines were able to work," he said.
Meantime, an area can de-escalate to alert level 1, which removes indoor and outdoor venue capacity restrictions, when it has a total bed utilization of below 49 percent, has zero two-week growth rate, and has an average daily attack rate of less than 1, Nograles explained.
"It’s new normal because dapat mataas ang vaccination rate, especially for A2 (senior citizens) and A3 (people with comorbidities)," he said.
The Inter-Agency Task Force will asses Metro Manila's COVID-19 "numbers" on Feb. 12 or 13, Nograles added. The region reverted to Alert Level 2 starting Tuesday through Feb. 15, after being placed on Level 3 for most of last month amid a spike in cases due to the omicron variant.
The Department of Health will continue to monitor the country's pandemic situation "day by day," its spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said.
"I’m not saying 'di tayo darating sa Alert Level 1. I’m just saying pag-aaralan nating maigi 'yan para tayo'y makasiguro na meron tayong adequate safeguards kapag tayo ay nagbaba ng Alert Level 1," she told reporters.
(I’m not saying we won't reach Alert Level 1. I’m just saying we will study this carefully so we can ensure we have adequate safeguards.)