Duterte keeping Alert Level 1 amid threat of emerging COVID-19 variants

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 05 2022 09:45 PM

People spend time outdoors  ABS-CBN
People spend time outdoors at the Rajah Sulayman Park in Manila on February 3, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday rejected proposals to put areas under COVID-19 Alert Level 0, considered as the country's transition to a "new normal," amid the threat of new variants of the coronavirus.

Amid the clamor by some sectors for all areas in the country to be placed under the loosest Alert Level 1, it just "cannot be," said Duterte.

"Hindi puwede kasi may mga lugar na mayroon pa (COVID-19 cases). Until such time na talagang almost, 1 o 2 na lang all over the country, yung Alert [Level] 1 is still a good na buffer natin," Duterte said in a public briefing.

"Huwag na muna tanggalin natin 'yan unless we are really sure that everything is really alright especially sa ating lugar. Kasi mag-reinfect nang mag-reinfect 'yan, tapos may mutant na bago. 'Yan ang magkaproblema."

Metro Manila and 197 areas nationwide are under Alert Level 1, which requires an area to have a relatively high COVID-19 vaccination rate and a low-risk health care utilization. 

Only 57 areas have yet to be deescalated to Alert Level 1, according to the health department.

Government officials earlier floated the idea of an Alert Level 0, wherein COVID-19 will be treated as a flu and local government units will have more power to manage the crisis. 

Infectious disease expert Dr. Rontgene Solante noted that based on metrics, the country is ready to shift to Alert Level 0. 

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion had also said Metro Manila is ready for such alert level. 

The country in January fought a fresh wave of COVID-19 infections driven by the more transmissible omicron variant. 

Health authorities have acknowledged the detection of the recombinant variant XE, first detected in Britain, which is a combination of the BA.1 and BA.2 omicron sub-variants, with a BA.2 spike protein.

On Tuesday, the country posted 276 fresh COVID-19 cases, while active cases stood at 33,629, the lowest since January 4, according to the ABS-CBN Data Analytics team. 

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