Hospitals want more time before level 1
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III believes Metro Manila is ready to ease restrictions and shift to alert level 1 in March, but a group of private hospitals in the country advised caution and asked the government to wait for two weeks.
In believing that the National Capital Region (NCR) could move to the new normal, Duque cited its COVID-19 numbers and vaccination rates, with the latter showing that close to 84 percent of senior citizens and close to 102 percent of its target population have been fully vaccinated.
“This is their status, which means they are truly and genuinely ripe for deescalation,” Duque said at the Laging Handa briefing.
Officials earlier said local governments must have 70 percent of its target population and 80 percent of its senior citizens vaccinated to be placed under alert level 1.
Duque also said the two-week growth rate in Metro Manila had been negative while the average daily attack rate was at moderate risk.
Together, these constitute low-risk classification, he said.
Health-care utilization rate is below 30 percent, which is likewise low risk, he said.
“The NCR has passed when it comes to its metrics. It is ripe [for alert level 1], in other words,” he said.
Still up to IATF
But he also said the final decision on the alert level rests with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), which was set to meet on Thursday to discuss the matter.
The IATF would also determine which activities could be allowed, but adherence to minimum public health standards such as wearing of masks, practicing hand hygiene, and observing physical distancing would have to continue under alert level 1, he said.
“We will be more specific in terms of what these activities will be. We will review again the omnibus guidelines of the IATF on the alert leveling system,” he said.
Vaccination would also have to continue, and the government is set to hold a fourth national vaccination drive next month prioritizing senior citizens and children, said Duque.
He also said some 23 million individuals are due for their booster shots, as only 28 percent of the total eligible population have received their additional dose.
Wait 2 more weeks
But the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines Inc. called for caution and said the government should wait two weeks before relaxing the alert level.
“Our recommendation is, if possible, we wait for another two weeks. But if that is decision of the IATF [to shift to alert level 1], we will probably comply with it,” the group’s president Jose Rene de Grano said in the same briefing.
De Grano said the association’s concern was that minimum public health standards might not be implemented properly under the most relaxed level and lead to a surge in cases.
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