DOH Sec. Francisco Duque: Alert Level 0 possible but…
In the next couple of days, we have this gut feeling that Metro Manila and some other areas may just be gifted with Alert Level O, the new alert level status being studied by the government mid the improving COVID-19 situation in the country, jabbed by the pandemic in arch 2020.
While that should be a welcome development, we must listen to Dr. Rontgene Solante, an infectious disease expert, who told a Laging Handa briefing before the weekend that face masks should still be worn even under Alert Level 0.
While indeed the country may now be ready for the possibility of Alert Level 0 status amid the decreasing number of COVID-19 infections and lower healthcare utilization rate, health protocols, including the wearing of face masks and frequent handwashing, are important factors under Alert Level 0.
And then there is still transmission of the Omicron variant in the community, not to mention the latest variant announced by the World Health Organization it identified as Deltacron, although this is not yet detected in the Philippines.
We agree as well with Dr. Solante that a 90 percent vaccination rate must be achieved before Alert Level 0 would be declared.
“One of the important factors here is that we should reach the 90 percent vaccination rate so we will not be afraid of possible spikes or surge of COVID-19 cases,” he said.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Thursday the government was now studying the possibility of further easing the country’s COVID-19 status to Alert Level 0, with several areas, including the National Capital Region, now Alert Level 1.
Duque said the country had recorded less than a thousand cases daily for six consecutive days even if the NCR and 38 more areas nationwide are under Alert Level 1.
Under Alert Level 1, intrazonal and interzonal travel shall be allowed without regard to age and comorbidities.
All establishments, persons, or activities, meanwhile, are allowed to operate, work, or be undertaken at full on-site or venue/seating capacity provided it is consistent with minimum public health standards.
Meanwhile, foreign travelers and returning Filipinos are now allowed to present a negative result of laboratory-based antigen test upon their arrival in the Philippines, Malacañang said.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) made the latest move, amid the eased coronavirus disease 2019 restrictions in the country.
Prior to this, international passengers entering the Philippines can only present a negative result of the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test.
“Previously, they just have to show a negative RT-PCR test taken within 48 hours. Now, it is either of the two – RT-PCR or antigen,” Deputy Presidential Spokesperson and Communications Undersecretary Michel Kristian Ablan said in an online presser.
Under IATF Resolution 160-A issued Thursday, fully-vaccinated Filipino nationals have the option to present either a negative result of the RT-PCR test taken within 48 hours or a negative result of a laboratory-based antigen test taken within 24 hours prior to the date and time of their departure from the country of origin.
Fully-vaccinated individuals are no longer required to observe mandatory facility-based quarantine but need to self-monitor for any sign or symptom for seven days.
The new rule also applies to Filipinos who are unvaccinated and partially vaccinated, as well as those with unverified vaccination status.
However, those who are not fully vaccinated are mandated to undergo facility-based quarantine until the release of their negative RT-PCR test taken on their fifth day in the country. They are also required to observe home quarantine for another nine days.
For Filipino nationals who have recovered from COVID-19 but tested positive prior to their arrival in the Philippines, they are required to present a positive RT-PCR test result taken not earlier than 10 days but not later than 30 days and a positive RT-PCR test result taken within 48 hours before entering the country.
Fully-recovered Filipinos returning to the country must also submit a medical certificate issued by a licensed physician to determine if they are asymptomatic or have COVID-19 symptoms.
In the meanwhile, we count the hours to Wednesday. (ai/mtvn)