PHL BACK TO ‘NORMAL’ UNDER ALERT LEVEL 1 More businesses open, no more travel restrictions

By ALFRED GABOT, Editor in Chief

MANILA – The Philippines is almost back to normal with the continued fall of new corona virus cases prompting a less restrictive Alert Level 1 for the National Capital Region and 38 other cities and provinces even as the government mulled going house to house for those unvaccinated against COVID-19.

After the shift to Alert Level 1, more people went to work, more businesses were opened and more activities like indoor or outdoor sports, were allowed with the possibility of returning to face-to-face instructions in schools, triggering monstrous traffic jams in Metro Manila and nearby places.

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On Wednesday, March 2, the  Department of Health (DOH) reported only 866 new cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), the lowest single-day tally so far for this year, pushing the overall tally of confirmed infections to 3,663,920.

The March 2 figure is higher than the 421 infections reported on Dec. 28, 2021 — the last time the country saw the lowest three-digit daily new cases.

The active cases went down 50,827 after 1,622 new recoveries were logged.

Meantime, the total recovered cases increased to 3,556,589, the DOH said, adding the death toll reached 56,504 with 53 new deaths reported.

Following the continued downtrend of COVID 19 cases, Metro Manila which consists of 16 cities and one town and 38 other areas, including the adjoining provinces of Cavite, Laguna,  Rizal, Bulacan, Batangas and Quezon, have been placed under  Alert Level 1, the least restrictive in a 5-tier COVID quarantine system, beginning March 1 and initially up to March 15.

Other big cities placed under Alert Level 1 are Davao City, Angeles City, Baguio City, Dagupan City,  Olongapo City, Puerto Princesa City, Bacolod City, Naga City, Zamboanga City and  Cagayan de Oro City.

Among other thickly populated provinces covered by the new order are Pangasinan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Bataan, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, and Cagayan,

The government  is set to issue full guidelines for Alert Level 1, considered the “new normal,” according to the COVID-19 task force which also approved placing several provinces and cities in the Cordillera Administrative Region, Regions 1, 2, 3, IV-A, IV-B, V, VI, VII, VII, IX, and XI under Alert Level 1 from March 1 to 15.

Acting Presidential Spokesperson and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the mayors of the capital region, home to some 13 million people, earlier urged the COVID-19 task force to put it under Alert Level 1.

The mayors’ stand  was backed by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who said the region is already “ripe” for the loosest COVID-19 quarantine restriction.

Duque had noted that 83% of the NCR’s senior citizens had been vaccinated, while over 100% of its target population were fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Movement of persons regardless of age (with restrictions on crowded and closed spaces and close contact settings) and full capacity in private establishments and government agencies are allowed, subject to minimum health protocols. under Alert Level 1.

Under the alert level, restrictions on public health and transportation are lifted as the areas goes under a new normal system which means that public transport and establishments would be allowed to serve at capacity.

Under the quarantine level, the public may still be required to wear anti-virus masks and observe physical distancing, Nograles  said.

Government experts earlier revised the metrics of placing an area under Alert Level 1, which includes low to minimal risk case classification, the full vaccination of 70 percent of its target population and 80 percent of the eligible members of the elderly sector.

Nograles said the other 38 areas under Alert Level 1 for the first half of March are:

  • Abra, Apayao, Baguio City and Kalinga in the Cordillera Administrative Region;
    • Dagupan City, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union and Pangasinan in Region I;
    • Batanes, Cagayan, City of Santiago, Isabela, and Quirino in Region II;
    • Angeles City, Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Olongapo City, Pampanga, and Tarlac in Region 3;
    • Cavite and Laguna in Region 4-A;
    • Marinduque, Puerto Princesa City, and Romblon in Region 4-B; and
    • Naga City and Catanduanes in Region 5.

In the Visayas, also under Alert Level 1 are:
• Aklan, Bacolod City, Capiz, and Guimaras in Region 6;
• Siquijor in Region 7; and
• Biliran in Region 8.

In Mindanao, the following areas under Alert Level 1 are:
• Zamboanga City in Region 9;
• Cagayan de Oro City and Camiguin in Region 10; and
• Davao City in Region 11.

Under Alert Level 2 are (Luzon) Cordillera Administrative Region: Benguet, Ifugao, and Mountain Province; Region 2: Nueva Vizcaya; Region 3: Nueva Ecija and Zambales; Region 4-A: Batangas, Lucena City, Quezon, and Rizal; Region 4-B: Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, and Palawan; and Region 5: Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Masbate, and Sorsogon; (Visayas) Region 6: Antique, Iloilo City, Iloilo, and Negros Occidental; Region 7: Bohol, Cebu Province, Cebu City, Lapu-Lapu City, Mandaue City, and Negros Oriental; and Region 9: Eastern Samar, Leyte, Northern Samar, Ormoc City, Southern Leyte, Tacloban City, and Western Samar.

In Mindanao, Region 9: City of Isabela, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, and Zamboanga Sibugay; Region 10: Bukidnon, Iligan City, Lanao del Norte, Misamis Occidental, and Misamis Oriental; Region 11: Davao De Oro, Davao Del Sur, Davao Del Norte, Davao Oriental, and Davao Occidental; Region 12: General Santos City, North Cotabato, Sarangani, South Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat; Region 13 (Caraga(sad) Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Butuan City, and Dinagat Islands; and Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao: Basilan, Maguindanao, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Cotabato City, and Lanao Del Sur.