MANILA – Despite studies showing the Omicron variant to be a “milder strain” of Covid-19, Malacañang reminded the public Monday not to be complacent as other more lethal strains of the coronavirus, such as Delta, continue to exist.
Acting presidential spokesperson and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles made this remark after the Philippines saw 4,600 new Covid-19 cases on Sunday — the highest recorded in over two months.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) earlier raised the alert level status in Metro Manila to Alert Level 3 until January 15 amid an increase in Covid-19 cases and the detection of 14 local Omicron cases.
“We’re focusing so much on Omicron, we’re forgetting that Delta is still around. Right now, nagspe-speculate tayo na ‘Omicron na siguro ‘to, ang taas ang bilang’ (we are speculating that ‘This is probably Omicron since there are high numbers). We have to remember Delta is still around so don’t forget, don’t say ‘Ah, Omicron okay lang ‘yan kasi Omicron sabi nila is milder (Ah, it’s okay, this is probably Omicron because they say it’s milder),’” he said in an interview over ABS-CBN News Channel’s Headstart.
Citing data from the Department of Health (DOH), he said Covid-19 cases peaked mid-December.
“We’re seeing that many of the symptoms’ onset actually came about mga (around) Dec. 20, 21, 22, 23, 24,25, 26…DOH is saying that Dec. 20 onwards, dito na nagkaroon ng pagtaas (this was where we saw an increase). Exposure should have happened earlier — five to seven days before,” he said.
‘Relearn’ Level 3 protocols
Nograles enjoined the public to “relearn” the restrictions under Alert Level 3 after being used to the more lax protocols under the Alert Level 2 status.
He said the public can start adhering to restrictions within their residences by avoiding entry as well as gatherings among individuals not belonging to the same households.
“We have to remember, during that time when we downgraded from Alert Level 4 to 3, sa mga (in) subdivisions, they were strictly enforcing this—na walang papasok sa subdivision na mga bisita (that guests are not allowed to enter the subdivision),” he said an interview over ABS-CBN News Channel’s Headstart.
Nograles pointed out that subdivisions and barangays (villages) would even designate a pick-up point for riders to leave their deliveries and assign people to collect them.
“We came from Alert Level 2 and we’re now upgrading to Alert Level 3 so again have to relearn, kailangan ibalik natin yung dati na pagdating sa subdivision, mga condo, at maging sa mga barangay, huwag po tayong pumayag na may pumasok sa residences na hindi taga roon (we should not let guests or other persons enter our residences),” he added.
He said the public will have to strictly follow minimum public health standards especially because the government could not check on their compliance due to their right to privacy.
“Pagdating sa private places, hindi kasi. At dahil hindi natin ma-enforce ‘yan (When it comes to private places we cannot impose protocols. And because we cannot enforce them), the safest measure is to not allow itong (these) gatherings in residences pag hindi ka nakatira sa bahay na iyon (if you do not live in that residence),” he said.
He also reminded the public to bear in mind that these protocols are being enforced to protect their loved ones, especially senior citizens and persons with comorbidities from contracting Covid-19.
Cooperate with gov’t
Meanwhile, Nograles urged restaurants and other establishments that are allowed to operate on a 30 percent indoor venue capacity for fully vaccinated individuals and 50 percent outdoor venue capacity to also cooperate with the government in enforcing health protocols.
“Restaurants have this obligation also to secure their employees and secure their customers,” he said.
He emphasized the need to adhere to the government’s Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Treat-Reintegrate (PDITR) strategy.
“Ang panawagan namin sa lahat (Our appeal to all) is when you feel something is not right, huwag ka nang lumabas, isolate ka na (don’t leave your homes, isolate), treat it as if you have Covid…Let’s try to protect everybody in our families, in our communities, in our workplaces, ” he said.
He also encouraged the public to undergo reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing the moment they start to experience symptoms of Covid-19.
Meanwhile, Nograles said the IATF is currently in the process of determining whether there may be “adjustments” made to the current Alert Level 3 restrictions amid an uptick in Covid-19 vaccinations.
“May meeting kami ng (We have a meeting with the) IATF tomorrow. But for today, January 3 being Day 1 ng (of) Alert Level 3 natin. Let’s all, as much as possible, take very high, extra precautions,” he said.
Under Alert Level 3, intrazonal and interzonal movement will be allowed.
Those who are under the age of 18 and those with health risks will be allowed to go out to obtain essential goods and services, and for work in permitted industries.
On Sunday, the DOH has recorded 4,600 new Covid-19 cases bringing the nationwide tally to 2,851,931. (PNA)