To ensure business continuity and further economic recovery, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) yesterday proposed the opening of all businesses at varied operating capacities under Alert Levels 1 to 4, except for those considered high risk and non-essential.
“We propose hopefully that we allow the MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises), businesses to open for continuity from Alert Levels 1 to 4, and just adjust the operating capacities. The good approach is to have continuity in operations and jobs, regardless of alert levels, changes only in operating capacity. So there’s continuity, not open-close-open system,” Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said.
He added the requirement to have only vaccinated customers could also be applied to indoor operations of sectors such as dine-in restaurants, personal care service establishments, and gyms at Alert Level 4.
From September 16 to September 30, Metro Manila was placed under Alert Level 4 where previously prohibited sectors like dine-in and personal care service establishments were allowed to reopen at 10 percent capacity for indoor operations only for fully vaccinated guests, and at 30 percent for outdoor operations for both vaccinated and unvaccinated customers.
While business continuity is being pushed, Lopez said there would still be exclusions but with a shorter list for high-risk non-essential establishments. Currently, the DTI hopes Metro Manila could be downgraded to Alert Level 3, and for government to allow the reopening of gyms and fitness centers.
“We’ve been arguing that exercise is really one vital activity to increase their (individuals) immunity level,” he said.
Strategy is working
Two weeks into the implementation of alert level system with granular lockdowns in Metro Manila, Malacanang claimed the strategy is working as COVID-19 infections in the region declined despite economic reopening.
“It shows that our strategy is working,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said, noting that new infections fell from a high of 20,000 per day.
According to OCTA Research, new COVID cases in NCR have decreased by 17 percent to 3,891 cases from September 24 to 30, compared to 4,687 the previous week. Reproduction number also declined to 0.87 percent.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua agreed that the strategy is working, adding that small-scale lockdowns are keeping infections low while the economy recovers.
“We believe we adopted the right strategy to have granular lockdowns and while we are piloting it in the NCR (National Capital Region), the number of cases has gone down, so it is working. So everyone should cooperate to make this strategy more (doable),” Chua said.
The National Economic and Development Authority chief also believes Metro Manila is now ready for an alert downgrade next month. “Starting October, there is more opportunity to further downgrade our quarantine classification alongside vaccination to ensure a faster economic reopening,” he said.
“What we need to do now is expand this pilot to other areas in the Philippines and learn from our experiences,” he said.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases will still discuss the classification for October but Roque said Metro Manila mayors have already suggested a downgrade to Alert Level 3.