After being placed under strict lockdown measures for the past two months, people in Metro Manila have started to go out of their homes as more business establishments have reopened while others have expanded their capacity as the region shifted to a looser Alert Level 3 community quarantine system yesterday.
Some malls have reopened their cinemas, but there were no long queues of excited moviegoers as people remained wary of catching COVID-19, especially in enclosed areas.
Business establishments with al fresco areas, especially restaurants, benefitted the most from the more relaxed community quarantine protocols as they are now allowed to operate at 50 They’re…percent capacity.
Public parks provided a fresh respite to people who have been cooped up in their houses from when Enhanced Community Quarantine was imposed in August up until Friday when the region was still under the stricter Alert Level 4.
In Manila, the so-called Dolomite Beach reopened to the public, but with marshals from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources holding placards to remind people to observe social distancing and to wear masks at all times.
The Philippine National Police said it is planning to deploy more cops in public areas to prevent a surge in new infections.
“With the implementation of Alert Level 3 in Metro Manila, I have instructed our unit commanders in Metro Manila to be alert and active in the implementation of minimum public health safety because our countrymen may become complacent, which may lead to a resurgence of COVID cases in our country,” PNP chief Guillermo Eleazar said.
Health expert Dr. Tony Leachon warned a rebound of COVID-19 cases may happen, prompting Interior Secretary Eduardo Año to remind local government units, including those in areas neighboring Metro Manila, to “be quick to impose granular lockdown in areas where there are transmissions.”
For her part, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said Metro Manila’s COVID-19 cases could decline further – falling to the 1,000-mark by mid-November – if the region’s virus response continues to improve.
“This would happen if the vaccination coverage improves and if we continue to isolate new COVID-19 cases within four days from detection. If those metrics improve, we expect our cases to decline further by Nov. 15,” Vergeire said.
The World Health Organization’s representative in the Philippines earlier called for “very clear” messaging about the more relaxed restrictions to avoid “putting people’s lives at risk.”
“It’s not about relaxing or reducing the restrictions – it’s about calibrating,” said Rabindra Abeyasinghe, the WHO’s official in the country.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said as many as 300,000 workers are expected to be added to the active labor force as Metro Manila and several parts of the country shifted to Alert Level 3.
On Saturday, the Department of Health reported 7,772 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the nationwide tally to 2,713,509.
The country’s active cases, on the other hand, stood at 85,048, of which 81.7 percent were mild.
Total recoveries climbed to 2,587,881 with 1,634 new ones, while 156 new fatalities pushed the death toll to 40,580.
Metro Manila mayors are set to discuss a uniform policy on allowing minors and seniors to go outside of their residence under Alert Level 3.
“It will be voted on and whatever the decision we will respect it. I would seek clarification also on what qualified as essential and non-essential so that we as mayors would be clear on this,” San Juan Mayor Francis Zamora said.
“It is difficult because if it all depends on the local government unit, this can get confusing for everyone,” added Navotas City Mayor Toby Tiangco.