MANILA — Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Tuesday said he wanted the Philippines to defer further loosening restrictions as the heavily mutated omicron COVID-19 variant spread globally ahead of the Christmas and New Year holidays.
The whole country is under COVID-19 Alert 2 at least until Dec. 15, allowing fully vaccinated individuals to fill up to 50 percent of indoor venues in a bid to spur the economy.
"Para sa akin, dapat siguro, tama lang manatili muna tayo sa Alert Level 2," Duque said in a televised public briefing.
"Ang mobility tataas na naman ngayong Kapaskuhan… at merong nagbabadya o banta ng omicron variant. Maigi na konserbatibo tayo, anyway malaki-laki na rin ang bahagi ng ekonomiya na binuksan natin under the Alert Level 2," he added.
(For me, we should perhaps stay under Alert Level 2 for now. Mobility increases during Christmas and there is a looming threat from the omicron variant. It's better for us to be conservative. A big part of the economy has reopened under the Alert Level 2 anyway.)
The COVID-19 task force is still "finalizing" parameters for Alert 1, the least stringent of 5 alert levels. It is set to meet this Thursday, said Cabinet Secretary Carlo Nograles.
"We're monitoring omicron very closely at inaabangan din po namin kung anong magiging final findings mula sa WHO at mula sa ating mga health experts," he said in a separate press briefing.
(We're also waiting for final findings from the World Health Organization and our health experts.)
"Abangan na lang natin, baka possibly may developments na pagdating ng Huwebes," added Nograles, who serves as spokesman for Malacañang and the task force.
(Let us just wait, there may be new developments come Thursday.)
The Philippines has not yet detected a case of omicron, which the WHO classified as a variant of concern.
The country has recorded 2.84 million COVID-19 cases in total, including 49,499 deaths.
Daily infections have fallen sharply to below 1,000 since Nov. 24, from a peak of over 20,000 in September, paving the way for a wider economic reopening.
— With reports from Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News; Reuters
Video courtesy of PTV