MANILA, Philippines — An official of the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday cautioned the Philippine government against relaxing COVID-19 restrictions in Metro Manila amid the continuing spike in coronavirus infections.
Metro Manila is set to pilot a new quarantine alert levels system, placing the region under Alert Level 4 starting Sept. 16. The policy aims to make use of granular lockdowns and a 5-step system, which the government hopes will spur business activities.
Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO’s representative to the Philippines, said local authorities should be cautious in relaxing COVID-19 curbs in Metro Manila as this could overwhelm the healthcare capacity.
“Make sure that those restrictions are followed, that we don’t relax too much because we are not in a position where we can relax and experience further worsening of this transmission level because our health systems are just holding up,” he said in a televised briefing.
The latest government data on COVID-19 cases showed that 77 percent of 4,200 ICU beds nationwide are occupied.
Around 69 percent of 20,800 isolation beds in the country are also in use while 74 percent of 16,000 ward beds are occupied.
Data also showed that 57 percent of the more than 3,200 ventilators in the country are being utilized.
In the National Capital Region, 79 percent of the total 1,400 ICU beds are occupied.
Around 65 percent of the 4,500 isolation beds are in use while 74 percent of the 4,500 ward beds are being utilized.
Of the total 1,200 ventilators in the capital region, 62 percent are being used.
The Department of Health earlier said that the country’s COVID-19 classification remains at high risk.
“If there is a further increase in the current transmission level, it could lead to an overwhelming of the hospital systems. That’s why we need to be very careful in recalibrating how we respond to the current situation,” Abeyasinghe said.
While he acknowledged the Philippines’ increasing vaccination rate, Abeyasinghe said this is still not enough to ease restriction.
The alert levels system in Metro Manila will only allow outdoor dining at 30 percent venue capacity, and indoor dining for small groups of people who are fully immunized against COVID-19.
Religious gatherings and personal care services will also be allowed at 30 percent.
Gatherings for necrological services, wakes, inurnment, funerals for those who died of causes other than COVID-19 shall be allowed, but only limited to immediate family members.
Under Alert Level 4, the following are prohibited from going outside their residence:
- Persons below 18 years old
- Persons over 65 years old
- Those with immunodeficiencies, co-morbidities, or other health risks
- Pregnant women
Residents will only be allowed to leave their homes when accessing essential goods and services or going to work in permitted industries and offices.