As the National Capital Region (NCR) and 38 other areas are slated to deescalate to the COVID-19 Alert Level 1 on March 1 to 15, 2022, the government’s pandemic task force has released the guidelines for the said risk classification which includes, among others, the wearing of well-fitted face masks and the presentation of proof of full vaccination for election-related events.
In a statement, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases approved the said guidelines on Sunday, February 27.
According to the acting Palace spokesman, well-fitted face masks shall be worn properly at all times, whether outdoors or in indoor private or public establishments, including in public transportation, but with the following exceptions:
- When eating and drinking
- Participating in team and individual sports in venues where ventilation standards can be maintained
- Practicing outdoor sports/exercise activities where physical distance can be maintained
- Establishments capacity
All private offices and workplaces, including public and private construction sites, may operate at full capacity, consistent with national issuances on vaccination requirements for on-site work. However, they may continue to provide flexible and alternative work arrangements.
Government offices shall adhere to the full on-site workforce. Off-site work shall be under such work arrangements subject to relevant rules and regulations issued by the Civil Service Commission (CSC) and the Office of the President (OP).
Public transportation in areas under Alert Level 1 shall be at full seating capacity. However, for public land transportation between an area under Alert Level 1 and an area with a higher alert level classification, the passenger capacity shall be the lower passenger capacity rate.
For aviation, maritime, and rail public transport operating in and out of Alert Level 1 areas, the passenger capacity will be at 100 percent.
The use of acrylic and/or plastic dividers in public transportation shall not be required.
The use of the Safe, Swift and Smart Passage (S-PaSS) travel management system shall likewise not be required for interzonal travel to areas under Alert Level 1.
Proof of full vaccination
The newest addition to the guidelines is the requirement for individuals 18 years old and above to present proof of full vaccination before participating in mass gatherings or entry into indoor establishments.
The establishments in areas under Alert Level 1 include:
- In-person religious gatherings
- Gatherings for necrological services, wakes, inurnment, and funerals for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 deaths
- All indoor dine-in services of food preparation establishments. Proof of full vaccination is not required for outdoor or al fresco dining and take-out channels
- All indoor personal care establishments such as barbershops, hair spas, hair salons, and nail spas, and those offering aesthetic/cosmetic services or procedures, make-up services, salons, spas, reflexology, and other similar procedures including home service options
- Fitness studios, gyms, and venues for exercise and sports
- All indoor cinemas or movie houses operating at full capacity
- Meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibition (MICE) events
- Permitted venues for social events such as parties, wedding receptions, engagement parties, wedding anniversaries, debut and birthday parties, family reunions, and bridal or baby showers
- Venues with live voice or wind-instrument performers and audiences such as in karaoke bars, clubs, concert halls, and theaters
- Indoor ancillary establishments in hotels and other accommodation establishments
- Venues for election-related events.
Nograles said the use of health declaration forms or paper-based contact tracing shall not be required for all the agencies and establishments under Alert Level 1. The use of digital contact tracing applications is now optional.
Testing protocols shall be implemented, consistent with national guidelines, for individuals who are unvaccinated or have higher exposure risk.
In addition, testing using RT-PCR shall be recommended and prioritized for A2 (seniors), A3 (persons with comorbidities), and A1 (healthcare workers). Testing shall be optional for the A4 and A5 groups.
RT-PCR testing is not be recommended for asymptomatic close contacts unless they develop symptoms. Instead of going immediately to isolation, symptom monitoring is recommended. Should testing still be used, testing should be done at least five days from the day of last exposure.
Testing shall also not be recommended for screening asymptomatic individuals.
Meanwhile, testing using antigen tests shall be recommended only for symptomatic individuals and in instances wherein RT-PCR is not available.
The Hospital Infection Prevention and Control Committees (HIPCC) may implement testing protocols in health facilities for health workers and patients based on their assessment of risk and benefit.
Isolation and Quarantine
On isolation and quarantine, Nograles cited the updated quarantine protocols for incoming international travelers.
For the general public and healthcare workers and authorized sectors, the protocols shall be consistent with DOH Dept. Memo No. 2022-0013.
Under Alert Level 1, establishments are no longer required to set up isolation facilities within the workplace.
Close contacts, asymptomatic confirmed cases, and mild to moderate confirmed cases shall be managed at the primary care level, such as health centers, private clinics through face-to-face or teleconsultation.
On the other hand, Confirmed cases with severe and critical symptoms shall be managed in the appropriate health care facility.
In the case of reintegration, isolation can be discontinued upon completion of the recommended isolation period, provided that they do not have fever for at least 24 hours without the use of any antipyretic medications, and shall have improvement of respiratory signs and symptoms.
For the purpose of claiming sick leave, health benefits, or other relevant processes wherein the proofs of COVID-19 management are necessary, medical certification may suffice provided it should include the following minimum information:
- Name of patient
- Severity of symptoms
- Diagnosis as probable or confirmed COVID-19
- Date of end of quarantine and/or isolation period