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Palace: COVID-19 alert level system confined to Metro Manila

Helen Flores - The Philippine Star
Palace: COVID-19 alert level system confined to Metro Manila
Makati Mayor Abby Binay, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman Benhur Abalos inspect a restaurant at the Powerplant mall in Rockwell yesterday.
Krizjohn Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — The COVID-19 alert level system will not yet be implemented nationwide next month, a Malacañang official said yesterday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the government has not received any negative reports on the system’s pilot test in Metro Manila.

“We have not received any negative reports about some 170 areas under granular lockdowns,” Roque said at a press briefing. “It will not be enforced on a nationwide basis by October, we are just piloting it.”

The government task force against COVID-19 has been testing the alert level scheme with granular lockdowns in the National Capital Region since Sept. 16.

The system has five levels, with Alert Level 5 similar to the strictest enhanced community quarantine.

Under the new system, more establishments were allowed to operate to further reopen the economy.

Metro Manila is under Alert Level 4 until Sept. 30.

Ease alert level

Meanwhile, a group of restaurant owners is hoping that the Alert Level 4 for COVID-19 in Metro Manila could be eased in the coming weeks to allow greater operating capacity.

“We hope that within the next 30 days, within two weeks, we can go to Alert Level 3,” Resto PH president Eric Teng said in an interview on Teleradyo yesterday.

Under Alert Level 4, indoor dining is allowed at only 10 percent capacity for fully vaccinated customers.

Outdoor or al fresco dining is permitted at a higher 30 percent capacity, regardless if the customer is vaccinated or not.

Under Alert Level 3, restaurants are allowed to accommodate up to 30 percent of indoor capacity for all customers.

“For now, we are happy with 10 percent. We are observing (the situation). But if there are improvements, we hope we can go to Alert Level 3 so the allowed capacity would go up,” Teng said.

He said restaurants are not earning by operating at 10 percent capacity, but are able to allow waiters to go back to work.

“We are not making profit at 10 percent capacity, but it is for cash flow for salaries,” Teng said.

Presidential adviser for entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion said over the weekend the 10 percent operating capacity is too low and he is hoping this could be increased in the coming weeks.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the government is studying the possibility of reopening gyms under Alert Level 4.

No surprises, please

Meanwhile, senators yesterday asked local government units (LGUs) and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) not to take businesses and households by surprise when enforcing granular lockdowns.

Senators Grace Poe and Sherwin Gatchalian made the call in separate statements following pronouncements from Malacañang that the alert level system for COVID-19 would not yet be implemented nationwide.

Poe said LGUs should give communities “reasonable warning” before their areas are placed on granular lockdown.

Prior notice will allow the affected families to stock up on food, medicine, water and other essentials, Poe said.

Working members of the family should also be given time to return home and inform their workplace of their expected absence so their jobs will not be put at risk, Poe added.

Gatchalian also asked the IATF and LGUs to give business establishments and households time to prepare for granular lockdowns.

Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Epimaco Densing said the LGUs are given leeway on whether to impose a sudden lockdown or provide a 12-hour notice to the affected localities. – Louella Desiderio, Paolo Romero, Cecille Suerte Felipe

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