The entire Philippines will remain under Alert Level 2 status from December 16 to 31, Malacañang announced on Wednesday.
Acting Presidential Spokesperson, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) decided to retain the alert level status as the Department of Health (DOH) reported the first two cases of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 in the Philippines.
“We are being very cautious because eto nga yung banta ng Omicron na nakikita natin sa ibang mga lugar, mga bansa, territories, and jurisdictions na may positive na Omicron lalo na local transmission ng Omicron, pataas ng pataas ang bilang ng Covid cases doon at marami pa tayong hindi nalalaman tungkol sa Omicron (because of the threat of Omicron that we see in other countries, territories, and jurisdictions positive for Omicron especially local transmission where cases are increasing. We also don’t know a lot about Omicron yet),” he said in a Palace press briefing.
World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus on Tuesday said the new Omicron variant of coronavirus has been confirmed in 77 countries and is spreading faster than any previous variant.
Omicron, first detected in South Africa last month, was declared as a variant of concern by the UN health agency.
On Wednesday, the DOH said two imported cases of Omicron variant were detected from the 48 samples sequenced on December 14.
Alert Level 1 parameters
Nograles said the IATF-EID has also yet to finalize the parameters to shift to the least restrictive Alert Level 1 status.
He also said the government is still in the process of boosting the country’s Covid-19 vaccination rate. The Philippines aims to fully vaccinate more than 54 million Filipinos by yearend.
“Hindi pa talaga tayo ganun ka (We are not very) confident to open up places for Alert Level 1 because we need to still ramp up our vaccination,” he said.
He said the government is also being alert in anticipation of the return of thousands of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
“Tandaan natin marami rin tayong mga kababayan na uuwi dito sa ating bansa ngayon December (Let us remember that there are many OFWs returning this December). So we’re being cautious at tama rin naman na dapat cautious muna tayo right now (and it’s only right to be cautious right now),” he added.
Despite postponing the shift to the lowest Alert Level 1 status, Nograles said this was the best decision to strike a balance between people’s health and the economy.
“Because we want to keep it that way, ang desisyon ng IATF is hanggang December 31 Alert Level 2 po tayong lahat. Pag-uusapan naming muli anong mangyayari for January 1 to 15 (the decision of the IATF is to retain Alert Level 2 until December 31. We will talk about what will happen on January 1 to 15,” he said.
Nograles also announced that the IATF has adopted the guidelines on the nationwide Alert Level System for Covid-19 response.
“Kasi pilot pa rin yung implementation dati ng Alert Level System (The Alert Level System used to be a pilot implementation). So very clearly now, finoforgo na po natin yung dating (we are forgoing the previous) community quarantine system or classifications. Now, we are fully implementing now the Alert Level System sa buong Pilipinas (in the entire Philippines),” he said.
As of Tuesday, the Department of Health (DOH) recorded 235 new Covid-19 cases–the lowest the country has recorded since May 23, 2020.
The DOH tallied 780 new recoveries, bringing active cases down to 10,526 and marking the third week the country recorded less than 1,000 cases per day.
The country’s positivity rate is also at its lowest at 0.9 percent out of 24,120 tests conducted. However, the DOH said the test rate is considerably lower than the past days after 12 labs were not able to submit their data.
With this, the total confirmed cases are now at 2,836,868, while recoveries are at 2,775,991. (PNA)