NCR, most of PH under Alert Level 1 up to May 15 amid 1st Omicron subvariant case detection, May 9 elections
Metro Manila and most parts of the Philippines will remain under Alert Level 1 from May 1 to 15.
The announcement from Malacañang comes days after the country detected the first case of BA.2.12, a subvariant of the highly transmissible Omicron COVID-19 strain, while the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is gearing up for the May 9 polls
Acting palace spokesman Martin Andanar made the announcement on April 29, a day after the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) approved the classification's extension.
Under Alert Level 1, all establishments and public transportations may operate at full capacity while observing minimum public health standards.
Andanar said that aside from the capital, the following areas will also be placed under the alert level 1 status:
- Mountain Province
- Baguio City
- Ilocos Norte
- Ilocos Sur
- La Union
- Dagupan City
- City of Santiago
- Nueva Ecija
- Angeles City
- Olongapo City
- Lucena City
- Oriental Mindoro
- Puerto Princesa City
- Naga City
- Iloilo Province
- Bacolod City
- Iloilo City
- Cebu City
- Lapu-Lapu City
- Mandaue City
- Eastern Samar
- Southern Leyte
- Ormoc City
- Tacloban City
- Zamboanga City
- Misamis Oriental
- Cagayan de Oro City
- Iligan City
- Davao City
- Surigao del Sur
- Butuan City
Andanar also announced that the IATF placed several areas under Alert Level 2.
For Luzon: Benguet, Ifugao, Nueva Vizcaya, Quezon Province, Occidental Mindoro, Palawan, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Masbate, and Sorsogon.
For Visayas: Antique, Negros Occidental, Bohol, Cebu, Negros Oriental, Leyte, Northern Samar, and Western Samar.
For Mindanao: City of Isabela, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay, Lanao del Norte, Misamis Occidental, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental, Davao de Oro, Davao Occidental, General Santos City, North Cotabato, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Norte, Basilan, Cotabato City, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.
Under Alert Level 2, establishments may cater up to half capacity for indoors for fully vaccinated adults and even unvaccinated minors. Outdoor settings are allowed at 70% capacity.
On April 27, the Department of Health (DOH) detected the country's first BA.2.12 case in Baguio—a 52-year-old Finnish woman who arrived from Finland last April 2. She did not undergo routine isolation at a quarantine facility as she was fully vaccinated and arrived with no symptoms.
The DOH said the patient visited Quezon City and conducted a series of seminars in Baguio. The patient has since finished her seven-day isolation, has recovered, and was already discharged. She has also already returned to Finland on April 21, the department noted.
In an interview with ANC, DOH Usec. Maria Rosario Vergeire said they're "closely" monitoring the patient's close contacts: nine from Quezon City, five from Benguet, and 30 while aboard the commercial flight going to Manila.
“Some of them were tested already which turned out to be negative,” ANC quoted Vergeire as saying on April 28. “We got the manifesto already from the airplane. We had our contact tracing already."
Vergeire noted that most of the close contacts of the patient have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and that some of them already tested negative for the virus.
“Nobody is experiencing symptoms as of this time," she said.
The BA.2.12 Omicron subvariant has been detected in the United States, causing cases in the country to spike. South Korea also reported the more transmissible new strain, with the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency saying it makes up 10% of the circulating variants in the country.
The World Health Organization has not yet classified BA.2.12 as a variant of interest and concern. Initial studies suggest the strain is 20% more transmissible than BA.2 or "stealth Omicron."
May 9 elections
Comelec George Garcia, meanwhile, said confirmed COVID-19 patients who are under quarantine at home or in facilities won't be allowed to cast their votes on May 9.
Garcia, however, said that individuals with COVID-19 symptoms, but not validated by test results, would be allowed to vote.
"Wala tayong magagawa kung hindi pabotohin sila," he said. "We cannot drive them away at papauwiin na lang sila."
In a previous statement, the DOH said it “would not stop” anyone from voting, but reminded everybody about COVID-19 guidelines.
"Individuals who are positive with COVID-19 should strongly refrain from going outside and (instead) remain in isolation while recovering, as required in DOH Department Memorandum 2022-0013," the agency said.
In September 2021, the DOH asked Comelec to consider other options for voting in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, like digital elections and allowing COVID-19 patients to vote in "isolated centers," but the poll body shut down the idea.
“As to the possibility of alternative means of voting, unfortunately, these are not authorized by law and will not be employed on 9 May 2022,” Comelec spokesman James Jimenez told reporters.