Government prepares for ‘new normal’
Alert Level 1 to set up the transition from a pandemic state to an endemic COVID state
The government is preparing for Alert Level 1 and the eventual transition of the COVID-19 pandemic to an endemic state, in which the community accepts the virus as part of daily life, the health ministry said on Friday. (DOH).
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said Alert Level 1 would be the country’s “new normal” as restrictions are eased, although mandatory use of face masks will be the latest to come. disappear.
In the country’s five-step alert level system, Alert Level 1 is declared when rates of case transmission and healthcare utilization are low.
Earlier, independent research group OCTA said Metro Manila was already classified as low risk.
Vergeire, however, refuted this, saying the National Capital Region remains at moderate risk with an average daily attack rate of 12.53 and with a 7-day rolling average of 886 cases per day.
“Even though cases in the NCR are decreasing, our measurements show it is still at moderate risk, not low risk. I don’t understand why our metrics don’t line up because it confuses people. The DOH is the official source and we use metrics that show NCR is still classified as moderate risk,” Vergeire said.
Vergeire said that under the new normal, restrictions will be very specific or will only be implemented in areas at high risk of infection, while the capacity limit in establishments, whether indoor or outside, and in transport will be removed.
“But what would be held back would be our self-regulation,” Vergeire said.
People would still be expected to maintain minimum health standards – with masking, hand washing, physical distancing and maintaining good ventilation indoors.
Among the restrictions, she said, the mandatory wearing of face masks would be the last to go, as they offer protection, not only against COVID-19, but also against other respiratory diseases.
Dr. Edsel Salvana of the DOH-Technical Advisory Group said the easing of the face mask rule would be done gradually.
“Maybe outdoors first before indoors, and the vulnerable population will eventually be able to keep their masks on for a bit longer. And for example, on long plane trips,” Salvana said.
Vergeire said they are also working to make private establishments and public spaces safe for the public through the issuance of security seals.
The National Capital Region is under Alert Level 2 until February 15.
A group of doctors on Friday warned against easing COVID-19 restrictions in Metro Manila to Alert Level 1, saying it poses a risk of another COVID-19 outbreak.
“Perhaps it is better to be cautious before lowering the alert level,” said Dr. Maricar Limpin, president of the Philippine College of Physicians.
“We don’t need to lower it just yet.”
Limpin noted that the country’s current COVID-19 tally was understated and said it would be “more detrimental” to businesses if cases rise again.
The Philippines recorded 3,788 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the total number of cases to 3,630,637.
It is the fourth time in as many days that the daily number of cases has remained below 5,000.
The positivity rate was 14.7%, based on 32,795 people tested for COVID-19 on February 9.
The top regions with cases in the past two weeks were the National Capital Region (Metro Manila) with 470 or 13%, Region 6 (Western Visayas) with 455 or 12% and Region 11 (Davao Region) with 453 or 12%.
There were 72 deaths reported on Friday, bringing the death toll from COVID-19 to 54,854.
The DOH also reported 5,652 new recoveries, bringing the total number of recoveries to 3,484,636.
There were 91,147 active cases, of which 3,261 were asymptomatic; 83,145 were mild; 2,986 were moderate; 1,443 were serious; and 312 were critical.
Nationally, 34% of intensive care beds, 33% of isolation beds, 30% of ward beds and 19% of ventilators are in use.
In Metro Manila, 24% of intensive care beds, 29% of isolation beds, 28% of ward beds and 17% of ventilators are in use.
The DOH said all areas of the country are now considered to be at “low” to “moderate” risk for COVID-19, with the exception of Region XII.
Vergeire, in a press briefing, said Region XII had a growth rate of 28% over two weeks.
Vergeire said that despite this, the total bed utilization and intensive care utilization rate in all regions, including Region XII, remains at low to moderate risk.
Currently, the capacity of the national health system is also at low risk.
Vergeire said the DOH has seen a continued decline in the number of new COVID-19 cases nationwide, with cases averaging 6,103 per day this week, less than half of last week.
OCTA said NCR could be classified as “very low risk” for COVID-19 by March.
OCTA member Dr Guido David said projections indicate new COVID-19 cases could decline to around 200 by the end of February, from the current average of 600 new infections per day.