7 provinces also downgraded Feb. 1-15; ‘No vax, no ride’ policy lifted
Metro Manila and seven provinces will be under the less stringent Alert Level 2 for COVID-19 starting Feb. 1, the Palace said Sunday.
In a statement, acting presidential spokesman Karlo Nograles said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) put the National Capital Region (NCR), Batanes, Bulacan, Cavite, and Rizal in Luzon; Biliran and Southern Leyte in the Visayas; and Basilan in Mindanao, under Alert Level 2.
The Department of Transportation said its policy of barring unvaccinated people from using public transport in Metro Manila—criticized by administration critics as being anti-poor–would be lifted once the lower alert level comes into effect.
The alert level downgrade came as the country logged on Sunday 16,953 new COVID-19 cases—the sixth straight day that the tally fell below 20,000.
Establishments identified under Alert Level 2 will be allowed to operate at a maximum of 50 percent indoor venue capacity and 70 percent outdoor capacity for fully vaccinated individuals. Venues for social events, tourist attractions, amusement parks, recreational venues, cinemas and movie houses, in-person religious gatherings, dine-in services, limited face-to-face or in persons classes, fitness studios and gyms and venues for individual non-contact exercise and sports, contact sports approved by LGUs, funfairs, and karaoke bars and concert halls and theaters, will be allowed to operate.
Not allowed to operate under Alert Level 2 are casinos, horse racing, cockfighting and operation of cockpits, lottery and betting shops, and other gaming establishments “except as may be authorized by the IATF or the Office of the President.”
Government agencies and instrumentalities will be fully operational and will maintain an on-site workforce of 80 percent under Alert Level 2.
The Department of Transportation said the “no vaccination, no ride” policy will be lifted once Alert Level 2 is in effect in Metro Manila.
“Once we de-escalate to Alert Level 2, the no vax, no ride policy shall automatically be lifted,” Assistant Secretary Goddess Hope Libiran, spokesperson of DOTr, said.
“The no vaccination, no ride policy was not perpetual. It remained in effect only while Metro Manila was under Alert Level 3 or higher,” she said in Filipino.
Under Alert Level 2, intrazonal and interzonal movement will also be allowed.
However, local government units (LGUs) may impose reasonable restrictions subject to evaluation of their respective regional IATF.
The following cities and provinces, meanwhile, have been placed under Alert Level 3:
• Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR): Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Kalinga, Mountain Province, and Baguio City;
• Region 1 (Ilocos Region): Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union and Pangasinan, and Dagupan City;
• Region 2 (Cagayan Valley): Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, and City of Santiago;
• Region 3 (Central Luzon): Aurora, Bataan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac, Zambales, Angeles City, and Olongapo City;
• Region 4-A (Calabarzon): Batangas, Laguna, Quezon Province, and Lucena City;
• Region 4-B (Mimaropa): Marinduque, Romblon, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro and Puerto Princesa City;
• Region 5 (Bicol): Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Masbate, Sorsogon, and Naga City.
• Region 6 (Western Visayas): Aklan, Antique, Bacolod City, Capiz, Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Guimaras, and Iloilo City;
• Region 7 (Central Visayas): Bohol, Cebu, Negros Oriental and Siquijor, Cebu City, Lapu-Lapu City, and Mandaue City;
• Region 8 (Eastern Visayas): Eastern Samar, Leyte, Northern Samar, Western Samar, Ormoc City, and Tacloban City;
• Region 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula): Zamboanga Del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay, City of Isabela, and Zamboanga City;
• Region 10 (Northern Mindanao): Bukidnon, Lanao del Norte, Misamis Occidental, Misamis Oriental, Cagayan de Oro City, and Iligan City;
• Region 11 (Davao): Davao Del Sur, Davao Del Norte, Davao Oriental, Davao de Oro, and Davao City;
• Region 12 (Soccsksargen): North Cotabato, Sarangani, South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat, and General Santos City;
• Region 13 (Caraga): Surigao del Norte, Surigao Del Sur, Agusan Del Norte, Agusan del Sur and Butuan City; and
• Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao: Maguindanao, Lanao Del Sur, and Cotabato City.
The alert levels will remain in effect until Feb. 15, Nograles said.
He added that the IATF will announce the new alert level status of Ifugao, which was put under the more strict Alert Level 4 on Jan. 21, on Monday.
Kalinga, Mountain Province and Northern Samar were also placed under Alert Level 4.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier said the NCR has seen a decline in COVID-19 cases over the past few days and vaccination coverage is high in the metropolis.
Duque also said the escalation or de-escalation of alert levels is determined by the area’s two-week growth rate, ADAR, and health care utilization rate.
Metro Manila has been under Alert Level 3 since Jan. 3 amid the surge in COVID-19 cases.
Dr. Maricar Limpin, president of the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP), earlier said it would probably be safe to lower the alert level in NCR after Feb. 15.
She also said the government should continue to observe the number of COVID-19 cases for a few more weeks before placing the NCR under looser quarantine restrictions.
She said the current number of COVID-19,cases may not reflect the actual number of infections as many people were not getting tested.
Dr. Anthony Leachon, a former consultant of the government’s National Task Force Against COVID-19, echoed the sentiments of Limpin, saying the move to Alert Level 2 was premature.
Although cases are going down, he said this might be underreported because rapid antigen tests were not counted in the Department of Health bulletins.
He also said viral transmission will continue without adequate testing.
But Duque said COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila appear to have already peaked, given the declining rate of infections. As of Friday, the capital region was classified as a “moderate risk” for COVID-19.
The independent OCTA Research Group said the NCR, Cavite and Batangas were at a moderate risk, with an average daily attack rate (ADAR) of 23.01 in Metro Manila, 20.30 in Cavite and 15.09 in Rizal.
ADAR pertains to the average number of new cases in a period per 100,000 people.
OCTA also said the reproduction rate was “very low” on Saturday in the NCR (0.47), Cavite (0.69) and Rizal (0.54).
If the reproduction number, which refers to the number of people who can be infected by one case, falls below 1, this is a sign that the transmission of the virus is slowing down.
However, OCTA said, Batangas, Laguna, and Quezon are still at high risk for COVID-19.