IATF releases guidelines for pilot run of COVID-19 alert levels system in NCR

Maris Federez   •   September 14, 2021   •   95

MANILA, Philippines — The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) on Monday issued the guidelines on the pilot implementation of alert levels system for COVID-19 response in the National Capital Region.

This, after the IATF issued Resolution No. 136-A (s.2021) on September 3 that provided for, among others, the shift in the policy of classifying provinces, highly urbanized cities (HUCs), and independent component cities (ICCs) for purposes of community quarantine.

The resolution says that in the new classification framework, which focuses on the imposition of granular lockdown measures, community quarantine shall be reduced to either enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or general community quarantine (GCQ) with the latter having an alert-level system with each alert level limiting restrictions only to identified high-risk activities.

For this, the IATF has issued the guidelines to enjoin and proactively advocate the principles of 3C’s (Closed, Crowded, and Close Contact) strategy against COVID-19 to curb the further spread of infection which shall be applied in the NCR beginning September 16.

The IATF said the alert level system to be applied in the new policy is as follows:

  • Alert Level 1 – refers to areas wherein case transmission is low and decreasing, total bed utilization rate, and intensive care unit utilization rate is low.
  • Alert Level 2 – refers to areas wherein case transmission is low and decreasing, healthcare utilization is low, or case counts are low but increasing, or case counts are low and decreasing but total bed utilization rate and intensive care unit utilization rate is increasing.
  • Alert Level 3 – refers to areas wherein case counts are high and/or increasing, with total bed utilization rate and intensive care unit utilization rate at increasing utilization.
  • Alert Level 4 – refers to areas wherein case counts are high and/or increasing, with total bed utilization rate and intensive care unit utilization rate at high utilization.
  • Alert Level 5 – refers to areas wherein case counts are alarming, with total bed utilization rate and intensive care unit utilization rate at critical utilization.

For specific set of guidelines for each level, click here.

As for granular lockdowns, the guidelines said that the authority to impose granular lockdown shall be given to the city and municipal mayors with respect to their component barangays subject to the concurrence of the Regional Inter-Agency Task Force (RIATF).

The guidelines also said that epidemiological parameters in the declaration of a granular lockdown “shall comply with the National Task Force COVID-19 Memorandum Circular No. 2 dated 15 June 2020 or the Operational Guidelines on the Application of the Zoning Containment Strategy in the Localization of the National Action Plan Against COVID-19 Response.”

Granular lockdowns shall be for a period of not less than fourteen (14) days, the guidelines read.

The following shall be allowed to enter and/or exit granular lockdown areas for specific purposes:

  • Overseas Filipino Workers bound for international travel, and those returning to their respective residences after having completed facility-based quarantine upon arrival;
  • Individuals whose home or residence are located within an area under granular lockdown may enter the said area for the sole purpose of returning to their respective homes or residences but must thereafter remain therein for the duration of the granular lockdown;
  • Individuals under exceptional circumstances such as, but not limited to, those seeking urgent medical attention as validated by the municipal/city health officer; and
  • Food and essential items that are intended for delivery within an area under granular lockdown provided that they can only be unloaded at border collection points designated by the LGU.

In a press statement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said this policy shift aims to maintain balance in the government’s efforts to address the COVID-19 crisis and the stability of the country’s economy.

“We should strive for total health and this can only be realized by carefully balancing our COVID-19 response by considering both the health of our people and the economic health of the nation, which this policy shift is all about,” Roque said.

Quezon City gov’t looking into possible causes of COVID-19 spread in 2 convents

Robie de Guzman   •   September 16, 2021

The Quezon City Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance Unit (CESU) is currently looking into the possible causes of COVID-19 outbreak in two convents in the city, the local government said Thursday.

In a statement, the city government said massive contact tracing efforts are underway to contain the further transmission of the virus.

A total of 114 individuals, including 64 nuns and 50 staff members, tested positive for COVID-19 at the Religious of the Virgin Mary (RVM) in Cubao.

At the Convent of the Holy Spirit, 22 individuals were confirmed to have caught the virus, including 13 nuns and 9 staff members.

The city government said both facilities have been placed under lockdown.

CESU chief Dr. Rolando Cruz said they became aware of the situation after the cases were recorded in the surveillance data reported by a testing laboratory.

“Hindi po tayo ang nag-swab sa kanila. Nagpa-test po sila sa iba at nang lumabas na ang resulta sa laboratory, na-record ito sa surveillance data,” he said in the same statement.

“Now, our team is conducting an investigation and intensive contact tracing to get more details about the matter,” he added.

Cruz said part of the ongoing investigation is to determine if any of the positive individuals had any close contact with anyone outside of their facility.

Initial investigation revealed that a nun at the Convent of Holy Spirit passed away due to COVID-19 in early September. A physical therapist in the facility was reportedly exposed to the patient.

Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte earlier ordered the CESU to conduct active surveillance of closed settings in the city such as nursing homes and convents after 122 people, including 99 children, in an orphanage tested positive for COVID-19.

COVID-19 reproduction rate in NCR slows down to 1.28 – OCTA

Robie de Guzman   •   September 16, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The reproduction number of coronavirus disease in the National Capital Region (NCR) has improved in the past few days, the OCTA Research Group said Thursday.

In a report posted on Twitter, OCTA fellow Dr. Guido David noted that NCR’s reproduction number, which refers to the average number of secondary infections by each positive case, eased to 1.28 from Sept. 9 to 15.

This rate is lower than the 1.39 reported during the period covering Sept. 2 to 8.

David also noted that the one-week growth rate of NCR dipped to 9 percent from Sept. 8 to 15, compared to the 14 percent recorded from Sept. 2 to 8.

“Kapag bumaba iyong reproduction number kumakaunti ang hawaan, bumabagal ang hawaan. The growth rate will also decrease like ngayon sa NCR, 1.28 reproduction number growth rate is 9% kapag bumaba ang reproduction number to 1 iyong growth rate naman pababa to 0% then magiging negative,” David said in an interview.

“Kapag negative na ang growth rate ibig sabihin kumakaunti na ang cases natin… In fact, nationally 6% na lang ang nadagdag,” he added.

David also said that the capital region recorded an average of 5,819 cases per day over the past week, while the daily attack rate per 100,000 population climbed to 41.66 from the previous 38.24. It also registered a positivity rate of 25 percent.

He noted that the NCR has not yet peaked but there is hope that it may happen in one or two weeks.

“We might be getting close to the peak nationally… That’s why we have renewed again hope that we might not hit 30,000,” he said.

“Most likely today we’ll see 20,000+ cases […] even up to 21,000 to 22,000 but we hope na it will be controlled in the sense it will not exceed the previous high 25,000-26,000. Maybe the trend will start to decrease,” he added.

David also expressed hope that the country’s health system will be able to take a breather by next month if the downward trend continues.

“Based on the trends that we are seeing, by October I am predicting —hindi ito projection, may kasamang hope and prayer — that by October, downward trend na tayo,” he said.

“Pero iyong hospitalization will still remain high for foreseeable future up to the next few weeks,” he added.

He, however, called on the public to continue adhering to the minimum public health and quarantine protocols to help curb COVID-19 infections.

PH lists 21,261 new COVID-19 cases; death toll breaches 36K

Robie de Guzman   •   September 16, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines on Thursday recorded 21,261 new COVID-19 infections, pushing the tally of cases to 2,304,192 since the pandemic began in 2020.

The Department of Health (DOH) said the additional cases pushed the country’s active tally to 177,946.

Of the active cases, 86.1 percent are mild, 9.2 percent are asymptomatic, 2.65 percent are moderate, 1.4 percent are severe, and 0.6 percent are in critical condition.

Meanwhile, total recoveries rose to 2,090,228 with 13,644 new recovered patients.

Fatalities climbed to 36,018 after 277 more patients succumbed to the viral disease.

Two laboratories failed to submit data on time, the DOH noted in its report.

Out of the 74,149 tests reported on Sept. 14, around 27 percent have been found positive for COVID-19.

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