Alert level 2 in NCR signals opportunities for safe return to normalcy, boosts economic recovery prospects

Published November 6, 2021, 12:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin


Responding to an apparent widespread clamor, the government declared the de-escalation of the National Capital Region (NCR) from alert level 3 to alert level 2 from November 5 to 21. This de-escalation follows an emergent consensus among key stakeholders on the need for fast-tracking the further opening up of business establishments, offices, schools, recreational facilities and venues for mass gatherings in view of clear indications that the risk level from coronavirus infection continued to decline.

Based on Department of Health (DOH) data, Metro Manila has been reclassified as a low-risk area in view of the following key indicators: first, average daily attack rate has declined to 5.72 per 100,000 population from 6.36 the previous week; second, positivity rate is down to five percent and reproduction rate is low at .53; third, all 17 local government units (LGUs) in the region posted reproduction numbers less than 0.9; fourth, daily average number of new cases at 810 is 14 percent lower than the previous week’s 901. Over and above these highly upside indicators, it was reported that more than 80 percent of the eligible population in Metro Manila has been fully vaccinated while 96 percent of adults have received at least a first dose.

With all health-related bases fully covered, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emergent Infectious Diseases green-lighted Metro Manila’s reclassification to Alert Level 2. The majority of business establishments and services are now allowed to operate, or be undertaken “at a maximum of 50 percent indoor venue capacity for fully vaccinated individuals and even those below 18 years of age, even if unvaccinated, and 70 percent outdoor capacity”.

Previously prohibited activities that would now be permitted to take place include, among others: limited face-to-face or in-person classes for basic education subject to Office of the President approval; kid amusement playgrounds and kiddie rides; and karaoke bars, theaters and live-audience venues such as concert halls and theaters. Government agencies are mandated to become fully operational with up to 50 percent on-site capacity while continuing with flexible work arrangements.

Prior to the cautious stance taken by the IATF in initially declaring an extension of alert level 3 until November 15, the country’s economic managers, business leaders and the LGUs uniformly expressed their belief that a downshift to alert level 2 was both timely and imperative.

The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) projected that with the NCR under Alert Level 2, the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) would gain P3.6 billion and some 16,000 jobs would be recovered. As reported by the Philippine Statistics Authority, the country’s unemployment rate increased last August from 3.88 million in August 2021 to 4.25 million resulting to an unemployment rate of 8.9 percent — the highest since January 2021. High unemployment and sluggish economic activity could further erode prospects for economic rejuvenation toward yearend.

Meantime, medical experts are proposing the start of booster vaccination for priority sectors such as health workers and senior citizens. This would preclude the possibility that waning vaccine efficacy might trigger a fresh spike in infections that could reverse anew the steady march toward recovery on all fronts.