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Economic growth: ‘Keep cases low to meet targets’

We are not yet ready to declare Alert Level 1 in Metro Manila or other areas.

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The Philippines could still achieve its economic growth target by the end of 2021 even if quarantine restrictions in Metro Manila have not been relaxed amid the looming threat of the Covid-19 Omicron variant, according to Malacañang.

In a televised briefing, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles expressed confidence that the country may attain its four to five percent growth target so long as Covid-19 cases remain low.

“We are confident in hitting our targets, as previously cited by our economic managers,” said Nograles, who is also acting presidential spokesperson.

The Philippines initially set a six to seven percent growth target for this year, but it was cut to four to five percent last August to reflect the impact of a two-week lockdown amid a deadly surge last August driven by the highly-infectious Delta coronavirus variant.

Next year’s growth target was kept at seven percent to nine percent.

Business groups have been expecting further relaxation of Covid-19 measures as the Philippines saw a downward trend in daily infections in the last two weeks.

The government, however, kept Metro Manila under Alert Level 2 until mid-December, rejecting calls to ease up restrictions as the world fears the impact of the Omicron variant, which was said to be the Covid-19 virus type with most mutations.

Since 5 November, Alert Level 2 has been in place in the National Capital Region, which accounts for almost 40 percent of the Philippines’ gross domestic product.

Under the scheme, restaurants, personal care establishments, fitness studios, tourist attractions, recreational venues, cinemas and movie houses, funfairs, or kid amusement industries are permitted to operate.

On the other hand, gaming areas and betting shops are prohibited to operate. The said establishments are only allowed in areas under Alert Level 1, which have the most relaxed Covid-19 measures.

“Right now, we are not yet ready to declare Alert Level 1 in Metro Manila or other areas,” Nograles said.

The national pandemic task force, he added, is still crafting guidelines that should be considered in downgrading an area to Alert Level 1.

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