Philippines finalizing 'roadmap' for COVID-19 Alert 1

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 15 2022 03:06 PM

Parents accompany their children at a vaccination site in SM San Lazaro, Manila on Feb. 11, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News
Parents accompany their children at a vaccination site in SM San Lazaro, Manila on Feb. 11, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The Philippines is finalizing a "roadmap" for the so-called "new normal" or loosest of 5 COVID-19 alert levels, Malacañang said on Tuesday, as its adviser and a researcher hoped for an easing of restrictions by March. 

The declaration of Alert Level 1 requires continued adherence to health rules and a high vaccination rate, especially among the elderly and people with comorbidity, who are most at risk of developing severe COVID-19, said Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles. 

"Right now, pina-finalize na rin po namin sa IATF ang sabihin natin roadmap to Alert Level 1 for NCR, for Metro Manila at kung ano pa man ang mga regions na mag-fulfill ng requirements and conditions," he said in a press briefing. 

(We are still finalizing at the IATF the, let's say, roadmap to Alert. Level 1 for NCR, for Metro Manila, and whatever regions that will fulfill requirements and conditions.)

Under Alert 1, the public may still be required to wear anti-virus masks and observe physical distancing, said Nograles, acting Palace spokesman. 

He said this alert level would lift limits on the operating capacity of establishments. 

"Pero ibig po sabihin, kailangan self-regulation, self-policing in establishments themselves," said the official. 

(But this means, self-regulation, self-policing is needed in establishments.) 

Malacañang on Monday announced the Philippines has returned to low risk classification for COVID-19 after a record uptick in infections in January, driven by the highly contagious omicron variant. 

If Metro Manila eases its restrictions next month, this will coincide with summer, when many would want to take a vacation and boost the economy by spending on airfare, hotels, and restaurants, noted Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Secretary Joey Concepcion. 

“Hopefully by March, we see Alert Level 1,” he said in a public briefing. 

Concepcion said this was "the only way" that the Philippines could replicate the 7.7 percent economic growth in the fourth quarter of 2021, when restrictions were eased.

"This is the last 4 months of this administration. And my wish is we close with a bang, we close with a good finish, not only that we are able to bring down the cases of omicron… but we also see the economy, momentum, continue to move up," he said. 

The OCTA research group earlier said the average daily tally of COVID-19 cases could go down to less than 1,000 a day by March. 

Metro Manila's coronavirus positivity rate is at 6.8 percent and could fall to the 5 percent, which is the benchmark of the World Health Organization, by March 1, said OCTA fellow Dr. Guido David. 

"Mukhang handa na rin naman na i-deescalate na iyong alert level. Siguro may mga other indicators lang na tinitingnan," he said in the same briefing. 

(It appears we are ready to deescalate the alert level. Perhaps there are just other indicators being studied.) 

He said one indicator could be the situation in some parts of nearby Calabarzon region, which have not yet reached low-risk status due to their healthcare utilization rate. 
 
"Hopefully by the time na mag-Alert level 1 na tayo by March, mababa na talaga iyong risk level natin… minimal na lang ‘yong risk na magkakaroon ng resurgence or major spike in cases," said David, a mathematics professor at the University of the Philippines. 

(Hopefully by the time that we go down to Alert Level 1 by March, our risk level is already really low so that the risk of resurgence or a major spike in cases will only be minimal.) 

Seven areas are under Alert 3 until the end of February, while Metro Manila is under Alert 2.