Metro Manila under Alert Level 4 beginning September 16

Alexis Romero, Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 5:29 p.m.) — Some restrictions will ease in Metro Manila beginning September 16 as it will be placed under Alert Level 4 as part of the government’s experiment with a new policy on coronavirus curbs which it hopes will stem rising infections.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año confirmed this Tuesday in an interview with GMA”s “Unang Hirit,” adding that Metro Manila mayors have agreed to place the capital region under one alert level.

“Alert Level 4 lang ang gagawin nila at magtutulong-tulong sila para mapababa yung numero. At ang objective ay mapababa sa Alert Level 3,” Año said.

(They will implement Alert Level 4 and they will help each other to bring down the numbers. And the objective is to bring it down to Alert Level 3.)

Alert levels

The new alert level system is the government’s attempt at replacing region-wide lockdowns with granular lockdowns, where smaller areas are placed under strict coronavirus curbs.

According to guidelines issued Monday by the government's pandemic task force, alert levels are to be determined by the Department of Health weekly based on virus transmission, hospital bed utilization and intensive care utilization.

Alert Level 4 means that "case counts are high and/or increasing, with total bed utilization rate and intensive care unit utilization rate at high utilization."

Under Alert Level 4, outdoor dining is allowed at 30% capacity, while indoor dining services are limited to 10% capacity and would only cater to fully-vaccinated individuals. 

Barbershops, hair spas, nail spas and beauty salons are allowed to operate at 30% if they have outdoor seating and only at 10% indoors, provided that they only serve fully-vaccinated individuals.

Religious gatherings are also allowed at 30% capacity in outdoor venues, but are limited to 10% in indoor venues where only fully-vaccinated people may participate.

The following establishments and activities are not allowed in areas placed under Alert Level 4:

  • Indoor visitor or tourist attractions, libraries, archives, museums, galleries, and cultural shows and exhibits
  • Indoor venues for meetings, incentives, conferences, events
  • Indoor entertainment venues such as cinemas, and venues with live performers such as karaoke bars, bars, clubs, concert halls, and theaters
  • Outdoor and indoor amusement parks or theme parks, funfairs/peryas, kid amusement industries such as playgrounds, playroom, and kiddie rides
  • Indoor recreational venues such as internet cafes, billiard halls, amusement arcades, bowling alleys, and similar venues
  • Indoor limited face to face or in-person classes, examinations, and other education-related activities at all levels, except those previously approved by the IATF and/or of the Office of the President
  • 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
  • Social events such as but not limited to concerts and parties, wedding receptions, engagement parties, wedding anniversaries, debut and birthday parties, family reunions, and bridal or baby showers, parades, processions, motorcades, and gatherings at residences with any person outside of one's immediate household
  • Indoor sports courts or venues, fitness studios, gyms, spas or other indoor leisure centers or facilities, and swimming pools
  • All contact sports, except those conducted under a bubble-type setup as provided for under relevant guidelines adopted by the IATF, and approved by the LGU where such games shall be held
  • Personal care services, which include medical aesthetic clinics, cosmetic or derma clinics, make-up salons, reflexology, aesthetics, wellness, and holistic centers, and other similar establishments; acupuncture and electrocautery establishments, and massage therapy including sports therapy establishments. It also includes establishments providing tanning services, body piercings, tattooing, and similar services. Home service for these activities are likewise not permitted
  • Specialized markets of the Department of Tourism such as Staycations.

All other establishments are allowed to operate at 100% capacity, but are encouraged to limit on-site capacity and implement flexible work arrangements.

The alert level system was supposed to take effect last September 8, but the government's pandemic task force opted to defer its implementation as the guidelines for it were unfinished.

Just this Saturday, the Philippines reported its highest daily tally of coronavirus infections with 26,303 new cases. It has been reporting over 20,000 cases for three straight days.

The Philippines has reported a total of 2,248,071 COVID-19 cases, 35,307 deaths and 2,032,471 recoveries since the beginning of the pandemic.

Other alert levels

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said there would be no distinctions in terms of vaccination in alert levels one to three, a set-up that would permit more businesses to open.

Food establishments will be allowed to operate in full capacity for take out and delivery services under alert levels two and three. Dine in services will be allowed at 30% capacity under alert level three and at 50% capacity under alert level two. All services of food establishments can operate in full capacity for areas that are under the most lenient alert level one but health protocols should still be observed.

During the pilot implementation of the alert level system, only establishments that provide basic personal care services will be allowed to operate, namely barber shops, beauty salons, hair spas, and nail spas. Personal care service establishments can fill in up to 30% of their capacity under alert level 3, 50% under alert level 2, and 100% under alert level 1.

In general, the maximum allowed operational capacities for closed and crowded venues and close contact activities are 100% for aler level one, 50% for aler level two, and 30% for alert level 3. However, the permitted capacities for establishments with safety seals may increase by 10%.  

General guidelines

Officials have said the new alert level system would allow local governments to enforce measures that are in line with their own risk assessments. The pilot implementation in Metro Manila aims to determine if localized lockdowns can be equally effective with wide scale community quarantine in containing the pandemic.

Under the new system, the Department of Health will identify the alert level of the pilot area. This area will then follow the protocols consistent with the declared status.

Close contacts of probable and confirmed COVID-19 cases regardless of vaccination status and despite the possession of a negative COVID-19 test result, will undergo 14-day quarantine in accordance with the protocols set by the DOH.

"We know that even if you are vaccinated, it is not a guarantee that you won't catch what we call the breakthrough infections," Roque said.

Local governments in pilot areas are required to submit pandemic-related data to their respective regional pandemic task forces.

Granular lockdowns

The government will also impose granular or localized lockdowns in specific areas while enforcing the alert level system. Granular lockdowns - defined as "micro-level quarantine for areas identified as critical zones by local governments regardless of alert level" - will last for not less than 14 days.

Persons who are allowed to move within, into, and out of the area under granular lockdown include health care workers and non-health personnel working in hospitals, laboratories, and dialysis facilities; and uniformed personnel tasked to enforce mobility restrictions.

Also allowed to enter or leave granular lockdown areas are overseas Filipino workers bound for international travel, and those returning to their respective residences after having completed facility-based quarantine upon arrival; returning residents provided they should remain in the area for the duration of the lockdown; individuals under exceptional circumstances like those seeking urgent medical attention as validated by a local health officer; and food and essential items to be delivered to an affected area provided that they can only be unloaded at border collection points designated by local authorities.

Roque said the national and local governments would deliver food to residents affected by the localized lockdowns.

"The DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development also has a regular program, the assistance to individuals in crisis situations. So, they can also receive assistance from the DSWD like transportation expenses or medical expenses," he added. 



As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: January 16, 2022 - 10:25am

Follow this thread for updates on COVID-19 risk levels, safety measures, and data from Metro Manila's local government units.

Photo: The STAR/Michael Varcas

January 16, 2022 - 10:25am

Daily growth rate in the National Capital Region is down to 2% from 3% of the previous day, according to OCTA Research.

OCTA Research fellow Guido David says the capital region could be close to the peak in new cases or the region has reached its limits in testing capacity.

January 13, 2022 - 9:57am

The LRTA says it will implement the "no vaccination, no ride/no entry" policy starting January 17.

Only vaccinated passengers will be allowed to ride the LRT-2 and will be required to show proof of vaccination.

January 12, 2022 - 10:47am

The Department of Transportation has issued an order barring unvaccinated people from using public transportation in Metro Manila while the capital region is under Alert Level 3.

"All concerned attached agencies and sectoral offices of DOTr are directed to ensure that operators of public transportation shall allow access or issue tickets only to ‘fully vaccinated persons’ as evidenced by a physical or digital copies of an LGU (local government unit)-issued vaccine card, or any IATF-prescribed document, with a valid government issued ID with picture and address," it says.

January 6, 2022 - 4:29pm

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat says she's in isolation following a recent exposure to a COVID-19 positive individual.

January 5, 2022 - 12:43pm

The government must ensure supply of basic medicines like paracetamol amid reports of people having trouble getting access to them, Akbayan party-list says Wednesda

"A shortage of paracetamol is another bitter pill that must not be swallowed by the public," Dr. RJ Naguit, second nominee of the party-list, says in a release.

The government has played down the reported shortage, saying supplies are adequate according to its monitoring. It said only specific brands of paracetamol are out of stock at pharmacies.

"For the last two years, the people have been swallowing too many bitter pills in the form of strict lockdowns, lack of mass testing, and inadequate ayuda. And after all our sacrifices, what do we get? We are entering the third year of the pandemic with hardly any paracetamol pills to swallow," Naguit says, adding failure to ensure steady stocks of basic medicines would lower confidence in government.

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