EXPLAINER: What to expect in new alert levels scheme in NCR, Philippines

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 12 2021 02:42 PM | Updated as of Sep 13 2021 12:50 PM

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MANILA - The interior department on Saturday said cities in Metro Manila would be placed under only one alert level for the first 2 weeks of the system's pilot implementation beginning Sept. 16. 

Alert levels will only be used in areas under the general community quarantine (GCQ). 

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque also earlier said Metro Manila would only be placed under 2 quarantine classifications: enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or GCQ.

"Para sa pilot [implementation] ng National Capital Region sa susunod na 2 linggo, napagkaisahan natin sa NCR na iisang alert level lang po ang gagamitin. Dapat ang alert level 3 ay Maynila at Valenzuela. Pero sila po'y nag-agree na, despite the fact na mas mababa ang kanilang alert level," Interior Undersecretary Epimaco Densing explained in a public briefing. 

(For the pilot implementation of the alert level systems in Metro Manila in the next 2 weeks, we agreed that cities in NCR would be under a single alert level. Supposedly, Manila and Valenzuela are under Level 3, but they agreed being placed in Level 4.)

By implementing a unified alert level in the capital region, government would prevent a resident's movement from an area under a higher alert classification to one with a lower alert level. These are still subject to changes after the pilot implementation, based on Densing's explanation.

"Sa buong NCR, isang alert level lang ang patutuparin natin. Hindi po magyayari yung ganyan sitwasyon na lilipat po ng isang siyudad na mas mababa yung alert level dahil isang alert level lang po ang ipatutupad natin sa NCR sa susunod na 2 linggo," he said.

(We will implement a single alert level in NCR. Mobility from an area with a higher level to a lower level will not happen because we are under a single alert level in the next 2 weeks.)

He added that the health department would be the authority in announcing an area's alert level, which is heavily based on their health care utilization rate, average daily attack rate, and the number of new COVID-19 cases. 

An area with health care utilization rate above 70 percent is considered by the Department of Health (DOH) as high risk to critical level. 

WHAT ARE THE ALERT LEVELS? 

Under the highest Alert Level 4, mass gatherings, indoor dining, and personal care services will not be allowed. More details will be outlined as Philippine authorities finalize the policy. 

People aged 18 below and 65 above, those with comorbidity, and pregnant women would not be allowed to leave their homes. 

Government offices are only allowed to operate at 20 percent capacity under this alert level, authorities this week said. 

"Three C" activities, or those that are crowded, involve close contact, and held in closed or indoor areas, will be allowed at 30 percent of venue capacity under alert level 3, 50 percent at level 2, and fully at level 1.

"Three C" activities include parties, religious gatherings, meetings, exhibits, indoor tourist attractions, personal care services, and indoor dining, Densing said. 

Government offices are allowed to operate at 30 percent capacity at Alert Level 3.

Under Alert Level 2, establishments and government offices are allowed to operate up to 50 percent capacity. 

Private companies are allowed to have a minimum onsite capacity under Alert Level 2, but more employees would be permitted to go onsite under the loosest Alert Level 1. 

GRANULAR LOCKDOWNS 

A granular lockdown may be limited to several houses, a building, street or a barangay. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque earlier said granular lockdowns would run for 2 weeks. 

Here are some of the things you must remember, especially if a place will be under granular lockdowns, according to Densing:

  • Granular lockdowns will be implemented in the NCR and nationwide
  • Local authorities will be given 24 hours to prepare for the granular lockdown 
  • If two separate households in a street have COVID-19 carriers, the street is to be placed under lockdown 
  • Barangay officials will report the situation to the municipal health office, which in turn will recommend to the local chief executive if an area or street should be placed under granular lockdown
  • Authorized Persons Outside Residence (APOR) will not be allowed to go out if an area is under the lockdown classification. Only health workers, allied workers, overseas Filipino workers (OFW) with scheduled flights, and only people with emergency cases will be permitted to go out. 

"Lahat po, APOR, maski tayo sa gobyerno, 'pag tayo'y naabutan ng granular lockdown, 'di po tayo makakalabas sa area na ito," said Densing. 

(All individuals, including APOR and government officials, if we will be under a granular lockdown, we will not be allowed to leave an area.) 

The interior undersecretary reiterated that the national government will work with the local government when it comes to providing food packs, personal protective equipment, and medicine to affected residents. 

On Saturday, the Philippines posted a record-high single day tally of 26,303 COVID-19 cases, as the country continued to struggle in containing a fresh wave of infections driven by the more virulent Delta variant. 

--- With reports from Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News