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MANILA, Jan 8 (Mabuhay) — Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Saturday raised the possibility of upgrading the quarantine status in the National Capital Region (NCR) to Alert Level 4 as COVID-19 cases continue to surge.

Duque said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF) is considering further upgrading the COVID-19 alert level in Metro Manila as healthcare care utilization rate in the region is nearing moderate risk.

“Madali na lang ‘yan pumalo sa moderate risk, which means 50 to 70% utilization rate. Nasa 47 to 48% na tayo sa ngayon ‘yun sa ICUs (intensive care unit) natin sa NCR,” the Health chief said.

“Healthcare workers natin marami rin ang nagkakasakit,” he added.

Duque said the government is trying to prevent a situation wherein there are enough bed spaces in hospitals but not enough healthcare workers due to rising infections among their ranks.

“‘Yun ang kinakatakutan natin. Pinaghahandaan natin ‘yan [kaya] hindi malayo ang NCR ipasya na mag-Alert Level 4,” the Health chief said.

Under Alert Level 4, establishments are allowed to operate at 10% indoor capacity strictly for fully vaccinated individuals only and 30% outdoor capacity. Cinemas, contact sports, face-to-face classes, amusement parks, casinos are prohibited.

Metro Manila is under Alert Level 3 until January 15.

The government also placed its adjacent provinces Bulacan, Cavite, and Rizal under Alert Level 3 from January 3 until January 15, while Laguna is under the same alert level starting January 7 until January 15.

Fourteen more cities and provinces were placed under Alert Level 3 starting January 9 until 15 due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases.

Under Alert Level 3, several establishments are allowed to operate at 30% indoor venue capacity only for fully vaccinated individuals and 50% outdoor venue capacity, provided that all employees are fully vaccinated.

Face-to-face classes, contact sports, funfairs/perya, and casinos are among the activities and establishments that are prohibited under Alert Level 3.

Work at government offices is limited to 60% of their onsite capacity.

Meanwhile, Duque said that the DOH’s Epidemiology Bureau is still finding out if there is already a local transmission of the Omicron variant.

Nonetheless, he said that the government’s actions are already inclined to the assumption that the Omicron variant is already widespread in the country.

On Friday, the Philippines tallied 21,819 new COVID-19 cases bringing the nationwide tally to 2,910,664. This is the highest since September 12, with 21,411 cases. (MNS)

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