Metro Manila lockdown may be eased next month

PEOPLE in face masks attended a mass infant baptism in Mabuting Pastol Parish in Commonwealth village, Quezon City on Oct. 23. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

THE LOCKDOWN in Manila, the capital and nearby cities will probably be relaxed next month as coronavirus infections get under control, according to the Interior and Local Government department.

Coronavirus cases in the capital region fell by 48% in the past two weeks, Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Jonathan E. Malaya told the ABS-CBN News. “If this trend continues, we can look at a lowering of the alert level soon.”

An inter-agency task force that includes the Department of Health (DoH) was scheduled decide on the relaxation at a meeting on Thursday, he added.

The Department of Interior and Local Government and police are “prepared to implement new regulations once the decision is made to go to a lower alert level,” Mr. Malaya said.

Metro Manila was placed under Alert Level 3 from Oct. 16 to 31, weeks after the country struggled to contain a spike in coronavirus infections triggered by a highly contagious Delta variant.

Under Alert Level 2, businesses may operate indoors at 50% capacity, Mr. Malaya said. They will get an additional 10% capacity if they have a so-called safety seal.

Businesses will be allowed to operate outdoors at 70% capacity, he added.

Mr. Malaya said the pandemic task force would also decide whether to allow minors outdoors for nonessential reasons.

The Philippines is now at low risk from the coronavirus, DoH said on Monday.

Meanwhile, authorities need more time in evaluating infection and hospitalization rates in more areas of the country before they can be placed under the new alert level system, Alethea de Guzman, director of the Health department’s Epidemiology bureau, told a televised news briefing.

“There are areas where we saw improvements in their case and utilization data but it has only been a week so it’s better to evaluate the effects of the policy shift after a week or two,” she said.

Ms. De Guzman said they were studying whether detection and isolation efforts have improved.

Meanwhile, coronavirus cases globally are on the rise again, the Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19 said in a statement.

“Some countries are already bracing for the fourth wave,” the group said. “It’s just a matter of time before this is felt in the Philippines.”

A daily average of 3,000 coronavirus infections remains high and could still fuel a surge, the health alliance said.

“Even as our economy reopens, this period of relative calm should be used to prepare for the next surge,” it said, adding that the government should address the airborne nature of the virus.

“This has serious implications across transportation, workplace and business settings. We support the reopening, but we need to learn from other countries who are now anticipating a fourth surge,” it added.

Communities and hospitals should coordinate to ensure patients get the care they need, the group said. Government decisions on quarantine, isolation, border control and testing should be based on evidence, it added.

The coronavirus has sickened almost 246 million and killed 5 million people worldwide, according to the Worldometer website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization. About 223 million people have recovered.

The United States was the worst hit with 46.6 million coronavirus infections and 761,856 deaths, followed by India with 34.2 million cases and 456,418 deaths and Brazil with 21.8 million infections and 606,726 deaths.

In the Philippines, the coronavirus has infected 2.8 million and killed more than 42,000 Filipinos. There were more than 50,000 active cases.

DoH was set to announce the daily infection tally on Thursday night. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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