As alert level goes down, caution must go up

Published October 15, 2021, 12:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin


The recent announcement from the IATF that the National Capital Region (NCR) will now be placed under Alert Level 3 starting Oct. 16, 2021 was a welcome news for the business sector. With the recent downtrend of new COVID-19 cases, now under 10,000 a day, various groups have been calling for relaxation of restrictions and the gradual opening of more aspects of the economy. Their prayers, seemingly, have been answered.

The Alert Level 3 comes with it more “freedom” for businesses to operate. Indoor venue capacity can be filled up to 30 percent for fully vaccinated individuals, while outdoor venue capacity rises to 50 percent. Venues for meetings, social events, and tourism can now open, provided they impose strict health protocols for guests. This is also the same with recreational venues such as internet cafes, billiard halls, arcades, bowling alleys, skating rinks, swimming pools, etc.

What is another welcome news with this alert downgrade is that cinemas and amusement parks can now finally reopen their doors on a limited capacity. This would help revive the moribund industry involving entertainment and bring back to work the thousands of laid-off workers. It remains to be seen if Filipinos would now be comfortable patronizing cinemas after more than a year of watching movies at home.

This new alert also means that limited face-to-face or in-person classes for higher education and tech-voc training can now be done. This is another welcome news as the Philippines is among the last countries in the world to bring back students inside a classroom. With the vaccination drive starting for minors, this may come sooner than later.

The entire guideline of this new alert level seems so refreshing and one would not be surprised to see more cars on the roads, more people in the malls, and more workers in offices in the coming days. The wheels of the economy will turn, and would move faster as we inch toward the holiday (and election) season.

Before we throw all caution in the wind and be careless with health protocols, this calls for more vigilance. The air is still filled with variants of COVID and our hospital beds are still full of patients. We just have to look at the countries which have opened their economies too soon such as Singapore, Germany, and Israel to see that COVID is alive and well. Vaccines drastically help in cutting down virus transmissions and stave off harmful effects, but these are not “miracle cures” that would bring us out of the pandemic.

What would make this pandemic end is our collective cooperation. Aside from being fully vaccinated, there is wisdom in staying at home if there are no important matters to attend to, or necessities to purchase. A walk inside a mall to window shop is not a necessity and can be done some other time.

With the new announcement comes a yearning from the business sector that Alert Level 2 be imposed by November. They say it is a “must” as the holiday shopping season is an opportunity to recuperate all the losses incurred during lockdowns and provide the funds for their workers’ 13th month bonus. No person in the right mind would wish against this. But if COVID cases rise once again to levels breaching 20,000 because of our carelessness and laxity, then we do not have anyone else to blame but ourselves.