Metro Manila’s vaccination coverage ‘not adequate’ to ease quarantine rules – WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned that relaxing quarantine measures in virus epicenter Metro Manila may lead to further increase in the transmission of COVID-19, citing the current vaccination coverage in the capital region.

In a televised briefing on Tuesday, September 14, WHO Representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said that the government must be "very careful in recalibrating how we respond to the current situation."

"We have significant population coverage within NCR (National Capital Region). I believe it's about 60% now. But this is not adequate at this point to relax quarantine positions," he said, referring to percentage of the Metro Manila population that has been fully vaccination.

Abeyasinge added,"If there is a further increase in the current transmission levels, it could lead to an overwhelming of the hospital system."

Metro Manila will be placed under the second highest alert level under general community quarantine (GCQ) when the region shifts to an experimental lockdown scheme on Thursday, September 16.

This means that more establishments will be operational, allowing for increased mobility of people. For instance, the following industries will be allowed operations at certain capacity:

  • Interzonal and intrazonal travel for people not required to stay at home
  • Individual outdoor exercises for all ages regardless of vaccination status, but shall be limited within area of residence
  • Al-fresco dine-in services at 30% capacity
  • Indoor dine-in services at 10% capacity, but only for the fully vaccinated
  • Outdoor personal care services (barber shops, hair spas, nail spas, and beauty salons) at 30% capacity
  • Indoor personal care services at 10% capacity, but only for the fully vaccinated
  • Gatherings for necrological services, wakes, inurnment, or funerals for those who died from causes other than COVID-19

The government said all other establishments not specified may be allowed to operate at 100% onsite capacity.

Follow protocols

The WHO representative advised the government not to "relax too much" as healthcare systems are just holding up following the record-breaking surge in infections driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant.

"Now, you may recraft the terminology but basically what we are advising is make sure that those restrictions are followed, that we don't relax too much because we are not in a position where we can relax and experience further worsening of this transmission level because our health systems are just holding up," Abeyasinghe said.

The Philippines on Saturday, September 11, recorded its all-time high tally of COVID-19 cases at 26,303. The country now has 2,248,071 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 35,307 deaths and 2,032,471 recoveries. Of the total, 180,293 are active or currently sick. 

The Philippine General Hospital (PGH), the country's main hospital in the fight against COVID-19, is facing manpower problems as its volunteer doctors decided not to renew their contracts.

PGH spokesperson Jonas del Rosario said this was worsened by health workers getting sick and doing mandatory quarantine due to virus exposure.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said on Tuesday that 12 regions in the country, including Metro Manila, are "high risk" for COVID-19. –

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.