The government is considering allowing personal care services such as massage parlors and spas to reopen as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to decline.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said Thursday this would allow more workers to be rehired and expedite the economy’s recovery.
He said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) was considering whether to require massage parlors and spas to secure a Safety Seal or if they should be limited to serving only fully vaccinated people.
“These activities are now being considered [for Alert level 4]…. This is the only way to sustain the reopening momentum,” he said.
Cinemas and arcades, he added, will be reconsidered as soon as Alert level 3 is declared.
Lopez said there was growing interest from the provinces and areas outside Metro Manila in adopting the alert level system with granular lockdowns as soon as the pilot test in the National Capital Region is over.
He also reminded gyms and fitness centers that have resumed operations to maintain a strict policy on the use of face masks and to maintain an excellent ventilation system.
Among the suggested practices are the use of air purifiers, keeping windows open and the use of UV sticks to sanitize equipment.
There are about 3,000 gyms and fitness centers across the country.
Lopez also said that restaurants can seat as much as 30 percent of their capacity for dine-in customers if they have a Safety Seal.
“The essence of our moves is to allow more continuity in business. Businesses can survive even on oscillating operational capacities depending on the alert level system, since they will not be required to (temporarily) close again,” Lopez said.
He noted that statistics have shown that the economy is nowhere near pre-pandemic levels and the numbers of unemployed workers hit 3.88 million in August 2021.
The Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday reported that the number of daily COVID-19 cases was declining.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a Palace briefing that they had “identified and analyzed” all factors such as lower laboratory output, a decrease in test outputs resulting in lower positivity rate and fewer hospital admissions, Vergeire said.
Vergeire reported that new cases in the National Capital Region Plus areas and Luzon were decreasing.
She also said that the DOH must assess if this reflected a true decline or if it was affected by other factors, such as the decline in the number of RT-PCR tests conducted across the country.
Vergeire said the decrease in laboratory output was largely affected by the use of antigen tests.
“Second, we saw that the decrease in test outputs also showed a decrease in the positivity rate,” she said in Filipino
Moreover, she said the DOH observed a decrease in hospital admissions.
Still, she said, hospitalization utilization rates remain high.
“Although the ICU utilization rate is at 68 percent, we need to be careful so we can further decongest hospitals, [and] move on and open up some sectors in our economy,” Vergeire said.
“With all of these factors validated and studied, we are confirming cases are declining but it’s not a sign to be complacent.”
“Let’s be reminded that although cases have declined, our hospitals remain somewhat full,” she said.
In the last two days, the Philippines reported fewer than 10,000 new COVID-19 cases daily.
Earlier, the OCTA Research Group announced that cases per day in NCR could go below 1,000 by the end of October as the reproduction number—which is the number of people that can be infected by a carrier–further decreased to 0.67. It was at 0.88 the week before.
A reproduction number that is below 1 indicates that the transmission of the virus is slowing down.
“Based on current trends, the NCR could have 1,500 to below 1,000 new cases per day by the end of October,” OCTA fellow Guido David said in a tweet.
David said the seven-day average in NCR had a 32 percent decline to 2,642. The positivity rate also decreased to 14 percent.
NCR will remain under Alert Level 4 from Oct.1 to 15 as the government extended the pilot implementation of the new five-level alert system.
The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday reported some 9,868 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the nationwide tally to 2,622,917.
This marks the second straight day with fewer than 10,000 cases recorded.