Concepcion: Keep Metro Manila under Alert Level 2 until year-end to 'sustain' economy

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 3) — The government should retain the Alert Level 2 status in Metro Manila, even if it can "already qualify" for the lowest classification, to help businesses stay afloat, presidential adviser for entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion said.

The economy saw a "rapid" growth since restrictions were eased in the fourth quarter, according to Concepcion, adding that it should be sustained until 2022.

He also said "most" businesses are now earning "about 80% [of their] pre-pandemic sales."

"Maganda nga ang kalagayan ng establishments kasi dumadami na ang taong lumalabas (Establishments have been doing well because more and more people are allowed outside)," Concepcion said on Friday. "There is more mobility, which is good, and that's what we need."

"Consumer spending has started to kick in, so maganda na ang cash flow ng MSMEs natin (there is smoother cash flow among MSMEs)," he added, referring to the micro, small, and medium enterprises.

But while the bounceback is "fast," Concepcion said the country cannot keep on flip-flopping on the reopening of businesses if it wants to maintain economic growth.

"'Yun ang importante — sustaining the opening of the economy ," he said. "Hindi na rin kaya ng national government na [isara] 'yung economy [....] Kaya it's better that we first stay at Alert Level 2."

[Translation: It's important that we sustain the opening of the economy. The national government can no longer afford closing down the economy. So it's better that we first stay at Alert Level 2.]

The presidential adviser made the suggestion as he also cautioned the public against the Omicron variant, which may cause another surge in COVID-19 cases.

"We cannot prevent Omicron from entering," he said. "We've seen that with Delta. The most we can do is delay the entry of Omicron [....] So, right now, [it's] very clear that vaccination is the key to opening up the economy."

The World Health Organization has urged countries to prepare for another wave of infections, saying travel restrictions will only help them "buy time" and not necessarily avoid the entry of the rapidly spreading variant.

On Thursday, the government imposed stricter testing and quarantine rules for international travelers arriving from yellow and green countries.

The Philippines remains on Alert Level 2 until Dec. 15. This comes as health experts recommended that the capital region remain under the same alert level due to the looming Omicron variant.