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NCR shift to alert level 2 likely, officials say

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The government is eyeing to loosen quarantine restrictions in Metro Manila next month if the region sustains a downward trend in coronavirus infections, officials said Saturday.

Speaking at a televised briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the possibility of the capital region’s shift from alert level 3 to alert level 2 was “very high” based on the decreasing number of Covid-19 cases and hospital admissions.

“We hope this gets maintained, so we can de-escalate the alert level in Metro Manila come November,” she told reporters.

Interior Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III, in a separate interview, said the government may impose alert level 2 in the metro if its daily tally drops to 1,000 from the current record of 1,500 to 1,600.

“If that goes down to less than 1,000 [cases], it’s possible,” he said, responding to a query whether Metro Manila will be downgraded to a more relaxed alert level.

“We should be disciplined to prevent the spread of Covid-19. If we’re all vaccinated and our health care capacity improves, the possibility of alert level 2 is not too far,” Densing added.

He also justified the metro’s possible shift to alert level 2, saying the intensive care unit bed utilization rate in the region dropped to 49 percent.

Meanwhile, 37 percent of isolation beds, 39 percent of ward beds, and 37 percent of ventilators in Metro Manila have been occupied.

Officials said the decrease in hospital admissions were partly due to the increasing number of vaccinated people in the region, since anti-coronavirus shots were deemed effective in preventing severe Covid-19 infection.

As of Wednesday, some 7.95 million Metro Manila residents have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to government data. The figure accounted for 81 percent of the region’s target vaccine beneficiaries.

On the other hand, 9.12 million individuals or 93 percent of the target population in the metro have been partially vaccinated, or waiting for their second vaccine shots.

Business groups have long been calling on the government to ease quarantine restrictions in the capital. Shifting to alert level 2 means more people may access commercial establishments located in the metro, thus spurring economic growth.

In areas under alert level 3, the indoor operations of food establishments, fitness studios, and cinemas are limited to fully-vaccinated individuals at 30 percent of venue capacity. It expands to 50 percent under alert level 2, and subsequently, 100 percent under alert level 1 or the most-relaxed quarantine level.

At present, Negros Oriental and Davao Occidental have been placed under alert level 4, the second strictest of the five-tier experimental lockdown scheme.

Meanwhile, the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, Siquijor, Davao City and Davao del Norte have been placed by the task force under alert level 3, similar to Metro Manila’s quarantine level at present.

Batangas, Quezon Province, Lucena City, Bohol, Cebu City, Lapu-Lapu City, Mandaue City, Cebu Province, Davao de Oro, Davao del Sur, and Davao Oriental were classified under alert level 2.

Alert level 1 is not yet hoisted in any province or city, while the rest of the country remains under varying levels of the old quarantine system.

 

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