Metro Manila 'ripe' for COVID-19 Alert Level 1, based on metrics: Duque


Posted at Feb 24 2022 02:16 PM | Updated as of Feb 24 2022 02:52 PM

MANILA - The National Capital Region is ripe for COVID-19 Alert Level 1, based on the government's metrics, including its vaccination rates, although the final decision to adopt it rests on the inter-agency task force, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Thursday.

"Kung ako lang ang tatanungin..., ang NCR ay pasado na sa kanilang metrics (As far as I'm concerned, NCR has passed the metrics for a lower alert level)... Hinog (ripe), in other words," Duque said on the Laging Handa press briefing.

According to latest data, the region's 2-week growth rate is negative, and its average daily attack rate (ADAR) falls under moderate-risk, he said. "Pagka ibinangga mo yung dalawa, ang katumbas is a low-risk classification."

(If you consider the two factors, Metro Manila would already be under low-risk classification for COVID-19.) 

Health-care utilization rate in NCR, which is currently under Alert Level 2, is also below 30 percent, Duque added.

Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines (PHAPi) President Dr. Jose Rene De Grano said that private hospitals are seeing a steady decrease in active cases daily. 

Metro Manila has also vaccinated 101.66 percent of its target eligible population, according to Duque. 

He said 83.9 percent of the senior citizen population in the capital region have been fully-vaccinated against the respiratory disease.

The Department of Health has previously recommended at least 80 percent of the senior citizen population to be fully-vaccinated before de-escalation.

Duque said the IATF vs COVID-19, during a meeting Thursday afternoon, will review the recommendation of the Metro Manila Council to bring the region under Alert Level 1, as well as the alert status of other areas in the country.

It will also discuss what activities will be allowed under the loosest status, although, according to the DOH chief, minimum health protocols such as the mandatory wearing of masks will remain to be enforced. 

De Grano echoed the recommendation of continued strict implementation of minimum health standards, including social distancing, to prevent a possible surge after the easing of alert level restrictions. 

PHAPi is seeking though for another two weeks under Alert Level 2.

"Ang rekomendasyon namin, kung maaar,i mag-intay tayo ng another 2 weeks. Pero kung yan ang desisyon ng IATF, susunod kami," De Grano said. 

(We hope we can wait another 2 weeks. But if this is what the IATF decides, we will follow.)

The prevailing alert status is valid only until the end of the month.

De Grano noted the previous increase in cases after the ease of restrictions during Christmas time, and said it may happen again this time around.

The country saw a surge beginning late December until January due to the omicron variant.

While private hospitals are equipped to handle another possible surge, De Grano admitted facing challenges in manpower as more health care workers are seeking opportunities abroad. 

"We are always prepared. Ang limitasyon lang namin lagi ay number ng aming nurses and healthcare workers (we have a limited number of nurses and healthcare workers). Pero (but) we are prepared," De Grano said. 

The Philippines has recorded a total of 3,655,709 COVID-19 cases, as of Wednesday, of which 55,449 are active. 

Of those still battling the disease, 302 are in critical condition, 1,426 are severely ill, 2,811 are moderate cases, 50,258 are mild, and 652 have no symptoms.

Nearly 61.9 million people in the country have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, as of Feb. 21, data monitored by the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group showed. More than 62.6 million others have received their first dose.

Up to 9.7 million booster doses have also been administered.

Metro Manila is home to around 13.5 million people and accounts for a third of the country's gross domestic product.