Citing the continued downtrend in new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases, Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion has pushed for the further lowering of alert level in the National Capital Region (NCR).
“Business establishments are looking forward to the possibility of declaring alert level 2 in Metro Manila as it would lead to additional capacity to accommodate more customers,” Concepcion said in a statement Thursday, Oct. 28.
The NCR–the center of commerce in the country–is currently under alert level 3, but the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) is poised to recommended a new alert classification under the Alert Level System (ALS) this weekend.
On Wednesday, Concepcion met with various representatives from businesses such as restaurants, salons, spas, cinemas, gyms, amusement parks, hotels, and airlines. For the business owners, the easing of alert level in NCR would enable them to recoup their losses and reemploy the people who lost their jobs amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
During the meeting, OCTA Research Group presented data showing the plunge in the number of COVID-19 cases, not only in Metro Manila but in other parts of the country.
Metro Manila is currently classified as “low risk”, having recorded only 953 cases per day on a seven-day average from Oct. 20 to 26. The COVID-19 reproduction rate stood at 0.52 percent, while its incidence rate was only 6.73 percent per 100,000.
The region also recorded a positivity rate of 6 percent, while its healthcare utilization rate was at 35 percent. Based on current trends, OCTA Research sees cases dipping to less than 2,000 per day by the end of November.
“By the end of November, we are expecting less than 2,000 cases per day in the whole country, we hope we can sustain this trend and perhaps by December, it could be at less than 1,000 cases per day. There is no guarantee, of course, because these are just projections; but those are possibilities, those are real possibilities,” said OCTA Research fellow Dr. Guido David.
The NCR is currently under alert level 3 until Oct. 31. This means that indoor businesses such as restaurants and personal care services are allow to operate at 30 percent capacity for fully vaccinated individuals and at 50 percent outdoor capacity regardless of vaccination status, provided that all employees of the establishments are fully vaccinated.
If Metro Manila is placed under alert level 2 starting next month, indoor establishments will be allowed to operate at 50 percent indoor capacity, on top of the 20 percent additional capacity now that the regions has a vaccination rate of more than 70 percent.
Moreover, Go Negosyo founder Concepcion said an indoor business establishment is given an additional 10 percent if it carries a safety seal, bringing the total capacity to 80 percent. Outdoor venues are allowed to operate at 70 percent capacity, regardless of vaccination status of customers.
“This is certainly good news for business establishments as they would be getting closer to their ultimate goal of operating at full capacity,” the Palace official pointed out.
“Increasing capacity would require additional manpower, which is also a welcome development for those who temporarily lost their jobs or are currently working on alternate shifts just to give everyone a chance to earn. Now they also have an opportunity to earn a living for their family’s needs,” he added.
During the meeting, representatives from different business sectors also expressed their support for Concepcion’s call for a lowered alert level in NCR so that operating capacities can be increased.
“We support the call for increased capacity. We have also observed that the [ALS] seems to help boost consumer confidence,” RestoPH President Eric Teng said.
Meanwhile, the Cinema Exhibitors Association of the Philippines (CEAP), represented by Charmaine Bauzon, said, “We are quite happy that even alert level 3, we will be allowed to reopen and that the safety seal and vaccination incentive also applies to us.”
Dr. Dan Lachica, president of the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines, Inc. (SEIPI), said he appreciates the data analysis from OCTA Research, adding that they also support the lowering of the alert levels in Metro Manila.
David Charlton of David’s Salon emphasized the urgency of opening businesses.. “We have been closed for so long, and our employees have not been earning for months,” he said.
On the other hand, the fitness sector appealed to the government to allow the conduct of small group classes under alert level 3 or 2, assuring that gyms have enough space to ensure social distancing among participants.
Mario Mamon, president of Enchanted Kingdom, said the amusement and theme park industries are grateful to the Department of Trade and the Department of Tourism for crafting clear guidelines that would allow them to map out strategies depending on the alert levels.
“Now that we are seeing the numbers go down, we are hoping to get a positive response from the government regarding our proposal to move to alert level 2, so the business sector and its workers will all have a happy Christmas,” Mamon said.