Metro Manila LGUs told: Prepare for Level 2 shift


DESPITE Metro Manila remaining under Alert Level 3 from November 1 to 14, the Department of Health is urging local government units (LGUs) in the capital region to prepare to shift down to Alert Level 2 to avoid a rebound of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases.

According to Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) urged its fellow member agencies during its recent meeting to “not wait” for the relaxation of restrictions and instead prepare for a scenario where more people will be spending time outside their homes.

Under Alert Level 2 of the government’s Covid response system, more businesses will be reopened and capacities will be expanded by up to 50 percent in indoor areas and 70 percent in outdoor spaces.

Vergeire said during a Friday briefing restrictions could be eased because Covid-19 cases have been declining not only in Metro Manila but across the country.

The National Capital Region (NCR) now has an overall low-risk Covid-19 classification, with its intensive care unit and ward bed capacity at below 50 percent and its two-week growth rate also down.

But Vergeire quickly pointed out that nine NCR cities still have a positive growth rate.

Despite a decrease, the ADAR or average daily attack rate per 100,000 population is still a high 7.4, which is one of the reasons the region was not placed under Alert Level 2.

Vergeire also said that despite the decision of the government to slowly expand the capacity of public transport in Metro Manila by November 4, commuters must continue to observe the usual precautions.

Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said from the current 50 percent, passenger capacity will be raised to 70 percent and up to 100 percent.

The Department of Transportation (DoTr) recommended the capacity increase to help drivers and operators recover income lost during the pandemic.

“Metro Manila is the ideal place to test the proposal considering that 81.4 percent of its population is now fully vaccinated against Covid-19. In addition, public utility jeepneys and buses operating in Metro Manila are well-ventilated,” the DoTr said in a statement.

It said its analysis of public transport capacity in 10 countries found that capacity has no significant correlation with the number of Covid-19 cases.

Earlier this month, the agency also requested the Department of Energy to grant a fuel subsidy to public transport drivers.

The Development Budget Coordination Committee has already announced the release of P1 billion to the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board as fuel subsidies.

Vergeire said the Health department is also proposing to the IATF to make Safety Seals mandatory in light of calls to recognize the possibility of airborne transmission of Covid-19 in enclosed spaces.

Vergeire said a Safety Seal should be required in establishments, workplaces, schools and other indoor settings.

Commenting on the Philippines landing in last place in the Bloomberg Resilience Index for the second straight month, Vergeire reiterated that the country’s experience in handling the pandemic should not be compared with other countries that scored higher.

The index tracks a country’s progress in areas such as vaccination coverage, economic reopening, and progress in international travel.

The Philippines scored 40.2, slightly higher than the 40.5 it tallied in September.

“We will always have different contexts; we cannot compare an apple to an orange. Hindi po pwedeng ganun, but the analysis is there. Tatanggapin po natin ‘yan at gagamitin po natin ang mga puntong sinasabi nila, but…hindi po kami nagpapabaya sa response (It should not be like that, but the analysis is there. We will accept it, and we will use their points, but…we never failed in our response),” Vergeire said.

On Friday, the country reported 4,043 Covid-19 cases, for a total of 2.78 million infections.

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