Año: Downgrading of COVID Alert Level in NCR maybe discussed on IATF Feb. 17 meeting

Published February 16, 2022, 3:36 PM

by Chito Chavez

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) may discuss on Thursday, Feb. 17, proposals to downgrade the COVID Alert Level in Metro Manila, an ranking government official disclosed.

The shift of Metro Manila to Alert Level 1 could be part of the discussion of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Thursday, Feb. 17 after the Department of Health (DOH) confirmed that the National Capital Region (NCR) is now at low risk for the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19).

Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año said the issue maybe talked about especially that the Department of Health (DOH) confirmed that the National Capital Region (NCR) is now at low risk for the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19).

“We have an IATF meeting tomorrow (Feb. 17) and it may be included in the discussion. We have a high level TWG (Technical Working Group) who is in charge of crafting the comprehensive guidelines for the new normal where the minimum public health standards are institutionalized. It shall be implemented if the country is placed under Alert Level 1,’’ Año said.

In the event Alert Level 1 is imposed in Metro Manila and other parts of the country, Año noted that “so far there is no plan to drop the mandatory use of face masks adding that “in the future, it is a possibility which will still be based on science and COVID situation trending worldwide.’’

Año stressed the need for further scrutiny if the country is ready to be placed under Alert Level 1 which means that all restrictions are thrown out of the window except for the implementation of the minimum public health standards (MPHS).

“Malayo pa yung March 1. Kailangan paigisipan muna nating mabuti. Hindi yan automatic (shift to Alert Level 1) kasi syempre madaling sabihin mababa na (COVID-19 cases) pero tingnan mo yung Hongkong ngayon, ang Hongkong matindi yung surge nila. Talagang 90 percent yung kanilang ano, utilization ng hospital, ng hospital care. So ang Korea, South Korea spike din e. So hindi ano e, hindi sya pupwedeng sabihin mo na, o pwede na tayo, Alert Level 1 na tayo (March 1 is still far away. We need to think about this vividly. This is not automatic since it is easy to say that the cases are low but look at Hongkong today, In Hongkong there was a super surge. There was really 90 percent hospital utilization, hospital care. In Korea, South Korea there is also a spike. So we cannot say that we can shift to Alert Level 1),’’ he added.

The DILG chief also pointed out that currently the election campaign period for national posts is ongoing with that of local political aspirants beginning in March.

“Sabay sabay lahat yan (election campaign) period. Baka hindi natin macontain yung (COVID-19) surge ano. (They are done simultaneously. We might be able to contain the surge).

So while it is being discussed, kailangan plantsahin muna talaga natin (we need to really give it much thought),’’ Año maintained.

He also lamented that authorities need to look at the country’s entry points with the Philippines having open borders and a lot of restrictions already removed.

“Hindi pupwedeng basta basta (shift to Alert Level 1). O sige sinasabi ng economic sector pwede na, titingnan muna natin yung data analytics up to the end of Feb 28. E syempre sino ba naman yung ayaw na mag Alert Level 1, pero with caution. Dapat titingnan muna natin talaga yung, kung kaya ba natin. (We cannot just do it abruptly. Alright the economic sector says it is okay, we first need to see the data analytics up to the end of Feb. 28. Of course who would not like to be under Alert Level 1, but this should be done with caution. We should see to it first if we are ready),’’ the DILG chief emphasized.

Año cited the super surge in countries that suspended their health restrictions saying that each of their daily COVID-19 cases reached 50,000 daily with the deaths more than that of the Philippines since 2020.

“So tayo ingat ingat lang tayo. So bukas may IATF meeting, meron kasing move na, isang technical working group natin, kakamadahin nya yung ano, yung sistema sa under Alert Level 1,’’ he noted.

Clarifying being not opposed to the imposition of Alert Level 1 in the country, Año insisted that the shift to the least restricted Alert Level system should be based on “health versus economy’’ with the need to attain balance.

“Kailangan balanse, kailangan may mga safeguards. Sa ngayon walang safeguards yung ano, yung Alert Level 1. Talagang ang Alert Level 1 is the new normal (It should be balanced, there should be safeguards. As of the moment there are no safeguards in Alert Level 1),’’ the DILG chief explained. (Chito A. Chavez)