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Gov’t adviser seeks further lockdown easing in capital

MAINTENANCE workers from the Pasig local government disinfected an isolation booth of a quarantine facility at the Caruncho stadium before it got dismantled on Nov. 11. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

THE LOCKDOWN level in Metro Manila could be eased further to Alert Level 1 next month, as long as its more than 13 million residents remain cautious to prevent another surge in coronavirus infections, according to the country’s entrepreneurship adviser.

“We can do it,” presidential adviser for entrepreneurship Jose Maria A. Concepcion III told ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo in Filipino on Sunday. “While we continue to go down in cases, and we’re recommending Alert Level 1, vigilance is important.”

An area may be put under the first alert level if virus transmission is low, cases are decreasing, and hospital bed and intensive care unit use is low, according to an inter-agency task force.

Under this quarantine level, movement is allowed regardless of age and illness. All types of businesses may operate and venues may be used at full capacity subject to minimum public health standards.

“I think the relaxed policies this fourth quarter will continue until 2022,” Mr. Concepcion said. “We already found the solution — local governments vaccinating at least 80% of their constituents.”

The Department of Health (DoH) reported 1,926 coronavirus infections on Sunday, bringing the total to 2.82 million.

The death toll rose to 45,581 after 309 more patients died, while recoveries increased by 3,140 to 2.74 million, it said in a bulletin.

There were 28,102 active cases, 62.3% of which were mild, 5.8% were asymptomatic, 10.5% were severe, 16.94% were moderate and 4.5% were critical.

The agency said 26 duplicates had been removed from the tally, 24 of which were tagged as recoveries, while 245 recoveries were relisted as deaths. Two laboratories failed to submit data on Nov. 12.

DoH said 34% of intensive care units in the Philippines were occupied, while the rate for Metro Manila was 31%.

The government aims to vaccinate at least 50% of its adult population by yearend.

Metro Manila is now under Alert Level 2. Mr. Concepcion cited the need for people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus and always wear masks.

“We all need to get vaccinated,” he said. “This is for the national interest and common good. Our economy depends on it.”

Mr. Concepcion said there is now enough vaccine supply, and local governments should counter fake news against vaccination.

The Philippines has received almost 122 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, 67.7 million of which had been given out.

About 30.8 million Filipinos had been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus as of Nov. 11. Almost 37 million more have received their first dose.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte has approved a plan to use for the entire country a coronavirus alert level system first tested in the Philippine capital and nearby cities.

The nationwide enforcement of the quarantine strategy will be in four phases, according to Executive Order 151 released on Thursday.

The government on Sept. 16 started enforcing granular lockdowns with five alert levels in Metro Manila, weeks after the government struggled to contain a fresh surge coronavirus infections triggered by a more contagious Delta variant.

Coronavirus cases in the capital region might soon plateau as the infection rate dropped to 3%, the OCTA Research Group from the University of the Philippines said last week. — K.A.T. Atienza

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