February 3, 2022
MANILA — It is not yet time to remove the alert level system in the country in preparation for the time COVID-19 becomes endemic, Malacañang said Wednesday.
Cabinet Secretary and acting presidential spokesman Karlo Nograles said that while the vaccination rate in Metro Manila is high, inoculations still have to be ramped up in other regions in the country.
“Hindi pa panahon para tanggalin ‘yung alert level system kasi sa NCR mataas ‘yung vaccinations but we still have to ramp up vaccination sa iba’t ibang regions,” he said in an interview on ABS CBN News Channel.
(This is not yet the time to remove the alert level system because while vaccinations are high in NCR, we still have to ramp up vaccination in other regions.)
The Philippines has also yet to see whether there would be new COVID-19 variants that could trigger another surge, he said.
Nograles added that the Philippines has yet to see whether new mutations or variants would be like the Omicron variant where it caused less severe and fatal cases, even though it is more transmissible.
Instead of discussing whether or not the alert level system would be junked altogether, Nograles said the discussion should be when the country would be ready to be under Alert Level 1, the most lenient among the five-tier alert level system.
“The reason why hindi natin tatanggalin ang alert levels para just in case a new variant of concern or variant of interest comes or nagsu-surge uli, mababalik natin agad sa Alert Level 2,” Nograles said.
(The reason why we’re not nixing the alert levels is that just in case there would be new variants of concern or interest, or if there is another surge, we could quickly revert to Alert Level 2.)
“So maybe what we’re asking for is kailan tayo mag Alert Level 1, which is back to normal, but it’s new normal,” he added.
(So maybe what we’re asking for is when we will be placed under Alert Level 1, which is back to normal, but it’s the new normal.)
He said that under Alert Level 1, establishments can do away with restrictions on their venue capacity and travel would be allowed regardless of age or comorbidities, while maintaining compliance with minimum public health standards.
For an area to be placed under Alert Level 1, it should have a hospital utilization rate of below 49%, a zero or decreasing COVID-19 two-week growth rate, and an average daily attack rate below 1.
Vaccination rate should also be high, or at least 70% for senior citizens and persons with comorbidities, and establishments are compliant with safety seal requirements.
Presidential adviser for entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion earlier said he sees the possibility that the Philippines will be ready to live without the COVID-19 alert level system by March or April.
A number of senators were open to the idea of getting rid of the alert level system, saying this would spur economic activity.