MANILA — Authorities are finalizing parameters for declaring the least stringent COVID-19 Alert Level 1, Malacañang said on Monday, as global concerns grew on the newly discovered Omicron coronavirus variant.
At least two officials earlier said Metro Manila might shift to the least stringent COVID-19 level in a 5-step system if coronavirus cases continue to go down.
"Sa ngayon po, pina-finalize pa rin ng IATF iyong mga parameters na gagamitin natin para makapagde-escalate o makapag-declare po tayo ng localities under Alert Level 1," Palace acting spokesman Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said, when asked if Alert 1 for Metro Manila is still possible.
(For now, the IATF is still finalizing the parameters that would be used to deescalate or declare localities under Alert Level 1.)
"I cannot really put a date kung kailan po namin mafa-finalize iyong (on when we can finalize the) parameters. It's an ongoing process," he said in a press briefing.
The government began the pilot rollout of the 5-level COVID-19 alert system and accompanying granular lockdowns in mid-September in the capital region, before expanding it to other areas in a bid to spur business activity.
Authorities are "monitoring the developments with regard to Omicron," said Nograles, who also speaks for the IATF.
The country has so far not reported any cases of the Omicron strain, which was first detected in South Africa and has since spread around the globe.
Nograles urged the public to put "safety first" given expected gatherings ahead of the Christmas and New Year holidays.
The government in recent weeks eased virus restrictions as the daily infection rate hovers at the lowest level since the beginning of the year and the nationwide vaccination rate increases.
But the emergence of Omicron has raised fears curbs could be reimposed.
Around one-third of the country's 110 million people are fully vaccinated.
The Philippines has recorded more than 2.8 million infections since the start of the pandemic, including over 48,000 deaths.
— With a report from Agence France-Presse