Metro Manila will remain under Alert Level 1, while 47 areas have also shifted to the lowest COVID-19 alert level until the end of March, Malacañang said on Tuesday.
Acting Palace spokesperson and Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said the COVID-19 task force approved placing the 48 areas under Alert Level 1 from March 16 until March 31.
“The areas not in the list shall be under Alert Level 2 beginning March 16, 2022 until March 31,” Andanar said.
This developed as the Department of Health (DOH) said on Tuesday all areas in the Philippines are now at low risk for COVID-19.
“Good news, because all areas in the country, even those under an Alert Level 2, are classified as low risk,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a briefing.
Vergeire said the agency is now increasing vaccination rates in areas that remain under Alert Level 2 as part of the effort to de-escalate them to Alert Level 1.
She said restrictions in Metro Manila and 39 other areas are continually being eased due to high vaccination rates and compliance with minimum public health standards. The Palace said Metro Manila would remain under Alert Level 1 from March 16 to 31.
“We’re not seeing an increase in cases in any part of the country,” Vergeire said.
In Luzon, these areas are now under Alert Level 1, said Andanar: Abra, Apayao, Baguio City, Kalinga, Dagupan City, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Pangasinan, Batanes, Cagayan, City of Santiago, Isabela, Quirino, Angeles City, Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Olongapo City, Pampanga, Tarlac, Zambales, Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Lucena City, Marinduque, Puerto Princesa City, Romblon, Naga City, and Catanduanes.
Ten Visayas areas are at Alert Level 1: Aklan, Bacolod City, Capiz, Guimaras, Iloilo City, Cebu City, Siquijor, Biliran, Ormoc City, and Tacloban City.
Mindanao has five areas under Alert Level 1: Zamboanga City, Cagayan de Oro City, Camiguin, Davao City, and Butuan City.
Vergeire also clarified that the term “Alert Level 0” was a term used internally by the Health Department and that it was not yet final.
The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority earlier said Metro Manila mayors will recommend the shift to the so-called “Alert Level 0.”
Vergeire on Tuesday said the Deltacron variant, the hybrid of the Delta and Omicron variants, had yet to be detected in the country.
She said this was not considered a variant of concern.
Deltacron has only been detected in France, Denmark, and the Netherlands, Vergeire said.
An infectious disease expert cautioned the government on Tuesday against further loosening COVID-19 restrictions by placing the country or some areas under Alert Level Zero, with the coronavirus still raging in parts of the world.
Dr. Edsel Salvana, member of the Technical Advisory Group of the Department of Health, cited the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in parts of Europe after relaxing their mask-wearing rules.
Salvana said, instead of lifting COVID-19 curbs, the current alert level could be modified to allow more mobility, as the country shifts to the new normal.
The Philippines has reported a declining number of coronavirus infections after posting record numbers in January.
From March 7 to 13, the country tallied 4,131 new COVID-19 cases or an average of 590 per day, which is 35 percent lower than the cases reported from the previous week.
At present, some 64 million people have been fully vaccinated against the respiratory disease, of whom 11.1 million have received their booster shots.
Meanwhile, the University of the Philippines (UP), through its Philippine Genome Center (PGC) in UP Visayas and in UP Mindanao announced that it is now capable of sequencing the genome of SARS-CoV-2 from community samples in both island groups.
The fully-equipped satellite facilities have begun genome sequencing services of nasopharyngeal or oropharyngeal swab samples from
DOH-licensed COVID-19 testing laboratories.