HEALTH Secretary Francisco T. Duque III yesterday raised the possibility of upgrading the quarantine status in the National Capital Region (NCR) to Alert Level 4 as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases continue to surge.
Duque said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF) is considering further upgrading the COVID-19 alert level in Metro Manila as health care utilization rate in the region is nearing moderate risk.
“Madali na lang ‘yan pumalo sa moderate risk, which means 50 to 70 percent utilization rate. Nasa 47 to 48 percent na tayo sa ngayon ‘yun sa ICUs (intensive care unit) natin sa NCR. Health care workers natin marami rin ang nagkakasakit,” he said.
The health chief said the government is trying to prevent a situation wherein there are enough bed spaces in hospitals but not enough health care workers due to rising infections among their ranks.
“‘Yun ang kinakatakutan natin. Pinaghahandaan natin ‘yan [kaya] hindi malayo ang NCR ipasya na mag-Alert Level 4,” he said.
Under Alert Level 4, establishments are allowed to operate at 10 percent indoor capacity strictly for fully vaccinated individuals only and 30 percent outdoor capacity. Cinemas, contact sports, face-to-face classes, amusement parks and casinos are prohibited.
Metro Manila is under Alert Level 3 until January 15.
The government also placed its adjacent provinces Bulacan, Cavite and Rizal under Alert Level 3 from January 3 to 15, while Laguna is under the same alert level starting January 7 until the 15th.
Fourteen more cities and provinces were placed under Alert Level 3 starting January 9 until 15 due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases.
Under Alert Level 3, several establishments are allowed to operate at 30 percent indoor venue capacity only for fully vaccinated individuals and 50 percent outdoor venue capacity, provided that all employees are fully vaccinated.
Face-to-face classes, contact sports, funfairs/perya and casinos are among the activities and establishments that are prohibited under Alert Level 3.
Work at government offices is limited to 60 percent of their on-site capacity.
Meanwhile, Duque said the DOH’s Epidemiology Bureau is still finding out if there is already a local transmission of the Omicron variant.
Nonetheless, he said the government’s actions are already inclined to the assumption that the Omicron variant is widespread in the country.