No Alert Level 4 In NCR; 55 Areas Under Alert Level 3 Until Jan. 31
Acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles justified the decision not to raise the alert level in Metro Manila, noting the region has yet to meet the metric for Alert Level 4 on hospital bed utilization.
There will be no Alert Level 4 for Metro Manila and other areas deemed worst affected by surging cases of COVID-19 believed to be driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
Despite the steadily rising cases of infection, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) opted to extend until Jan. 31 the Alert Level 3 for Metro Manila or the National Capital Region (NCR).
The following areas in Luzon were also placed under Alert Level 3:
- Baguio City
- Mountain Province
- Dagupan City
- Ilocos Sur
- Santiago in Isabela
- Angeles City
- Olongapo City
- Lucena City
- Camarines Norte
- Naga City
In the Visayas, the following are placed under Alert Level 3 until the end of this month:
- Iloilo City
- Negros Occidental
- Lapu-Lapu City
- Negros Oriental
- Ormoc City
- Eastern Samar
- Northern Samar
- Southern Leyte
- Western Samar
Alert Level 3 in Mindanao covers the following:
- Isabela City in Basilan
- Zamboanga City
- Zamboanga del Sur
- Iligan City
- Misamis Occidental
- Misamis Oriental
- Davao del Sur
- Davao del Norte
- General Santos City
- South Cotabato
- Surigao del Sur
- Agusan del Norte
- Lanao del Sur
Meanwhile, the following areas will be under Alert Level 2:
- Puerto Princesa City
- Zamboanga del Norte
- Zamboanga Sibugay
- Lanao del Norte
- Davao de Oro
- Davao Occidental
- Davao Oriental
- North Cotabato
- Sultan Kudarat
- Dinagat Islands
- Surigao del Norte
The updated quarantine classifications take effect on Sunday, Jan. 16, acting presidential spokesman Karlo Nograles said.
Nograles justified the decision of the IATF not to raise the alert level in the NCR, noting that the region has yet to meet the metric for Alert Level 4 with regard to bed utilization.
“We are monitoring Metro Manila in terms of bed utilization. And like what we have been saying, if it reached 71 percent, then that’s when it would be right to elevate Metro Manila to Alert Level 4,” Nograles said at a media briefing.
He said as of Jan. 13, total beds utilization in the country was at 47.15 percent, while ICU beds utilization during the same period was at 46.11 percent.
In NCR, total beds utilization was at 60.03 percent as of Jan. 13, while ICU beds utilization was at 55 percent.
“Hopefully we do not reach Alert Level 4 because that would mean that our health care utilization rate is high,” he said.
“So, we are now managing our bed utilization rate by ensuring that only those who are in critical need, who have severe COVID cases; those with comorbidities; those who are vulnerable; those who are elderly are in the hospitals,” Nograles said.
The Palace spokesman said those who have mild symptoms or are asymptomatic may isolate at home but must be monitored by health professionals via telemedicine.
Peaking of cases disputed
Meanwhile, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, at the same briefing, disputed reports that COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila and other areas have “matured” or “peaked.”
“First of all, we do not recognize the terms matured surge and the other terms that had been used. What we want the public to know is that cases continue to rise not just in NCR. We have other areas that we have escalated to Alert Level 3,” Vergeire said.
“Cases in other areas are also rising. And, similar to the trends when NCR started to have this increase in cases, we also expect the same situation in those areas,” she said.
Vergeire cited experts’ projections showing that the peak of COVID-19 surge is not going to happen soon.
“It’s going to happen towards the end of January or even as late as the second week of February. So, the cases will continue to rise and we should continue to be cautious, get vaccinated if eligible so we would not reach the projections indicated by numbers and by our experts,” she said.
Under Alert Level 3, a number of establishments or activities are allowed up to 30 percent indoor capacity for fully vaccinated persons and 50 percent outdoor venue capacity.
Activities and establishments considered high-risk for COVID-19 transmission include face-to-face classes for basic education, except those previously approved by the IATF or the Office of the President; contact sports except those conducted under a bubble-type setup; fun fairs and kid amusement industries.
For a member of the OCTA Research Group, the increase in new COVID-19 cases in the NCR has slowed down and “could be peaking already.”
While this is welcome news, OCTA fellow Guido David said that “we are not out of the woods yet, and data in the next few days will clarify trends.”
In a report yesterday, David said that NCR recorded an average of 16,599 new cases from Jan. 7 to 13, with the “growth rate” dropping from 11 percent to just five percent.
The reproduction number, which indicates the number of people that a positive individual can infect, also dropped to 3.77 as of Jan. 10 from as high as 6.12 on Jan. 3.
“Efforts from the public must be sustained so that the NCR new case reports will start decreasing,” said David.
A reproduction number of less than 1.0 is needed for the number of new cases to decrease.
Despite the possible peaking of new COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila, David projects new cases to continue increasing.
New record high cases
The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday, Jan. 14, announced 37,207 new cases, a new record-high since the start of the pandemic.
The OCTA fellow said 40,000 is “definitely possible within the next few days,” noting in a tweet that surges are in the early stages in other parts of the country.
Citing DOH data, he noted “very high” average daily attack rates (ADAR) in the highly urbanized cities of Baguio, Angeles, Naga and Santiago as of Jan. 13.
The cities of Cebu, Dagupan, Iloilo, Lapu-Lapu, Lucena, Olongapo and Tacloban have “high” ADARs, while Bacolod, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, General Santos and Zamboanga have “moderate” ADARs. All cities have “very high” reproduction numbers.
As cases continue to grow, 372 areas across the country have been placed under granular lockdown, according to the Philippine National Police (PNP).
Of the areas under granular lock-down, 103 are in the NCR. The areas on lockdown cover 86 houses, 42 residential buildings, 11 streets and one building floor.
The Cordilleras emerged with the second highest number of areas under lockdown, at 80. It covered 95 households and 300 individuals.
The other regions with places under lockdown are Ilocos with 77, Cagayan Valley, 57, Calabarzon, 44, and Mimaropa, 11. A total of 517 households or 1,308 people are affected by the lockdowns. Securing them are 415 police officers and 585 force multipliers.
At least 245,855 people have violated COVID-19 protocols since Jan. 3, with 49,102 in Metro Manila, according to PNP. With Janvic Mateo, Edith Regalado, Emmanuel Tupas