MANILA, Philippines – All 17 mayors of the National Capital Region (NCR) recommended dropping the alert level status of the metropolis to the lowest, based on a resolution of their policy-making body on Tuesday, February 22.
“The Metro Manila Council (MMC) met on Tuesday night, and mayors were unanimous in passing a resolution urging the Interagency Task Force (IATF) to place NCR under COVID-19 Alert Level 1 status starting March 1, 2022,” Metropolitan Manila Development Authority officer-in-charge Romando Artes said in Filipino in a press briefing on Wednesday, February 23.
The resolution cited numerous factors that led to their recommendation, including:
- low-risk classification of 16 out of 17 local government units in the region
- positivity rate of less than 5%, which is the threshold set by the World Health Organization
- high COVID-19 vaccination numbers
“The local chief executives of NCR are ready and fully capable of implementing the IATF-prescribed health and safety protocols under COVID-19 Alert Level 1 status,” the mayors guaranteed in the MMC resolution.
The MMC’s recommendation will be discussed by the IATF on Thursday.
Under Alert Level 1, intrazonal and interzonal movement shall be allowed regardless of age and comorbidities.
“All establishments, persons, or activities, are allowed to operate, work, or be undertaken at full on-site or venue/seating capacity provided it is consistent with minimum public health standards; provided further, that face to face classes for basic education shall be subject to prior approval of the Office of the President,” the December 2021 IATF resolution read.
MMC chairman and Parañaque Mayor Edwin Olivarez, in a television interview earlier Wednesday, had called the possible shift to Alert Level 1 “the new normal.”
Philippine health officials have begun laying the groundwork of what an endemic state for COVID-19 might look like, although health experts caution it’s a state that is still difficult to achieve for now.
The Department of Health said that COVID-19 can be considered endemic – like dengue, tuberculosis, and measles – once “cases are stable, predictable, the constant presence of virus is there, and there is equilibrium between immunity of population and transmission of the disease.”
Some experts have raised concerns over the potential shift to Alert Level 1. They said vaccination thresholds set at 80% of the elderly population and at least 70% for the general population are not nearly enough to protect the country’s health systems in case the Philippines grapples with yet another coronavirus surge. – Rappler.com