Abalos: NCR mayors ‘see no need’ to return to Alert Level 4 for now

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 10) — Metro Manila’s local chief executives want the region to stay under Alert Level 3 even with the rapid increase in COVID-19 infections, MMDA chairman Benhur Abalos, Jr. said Monday.

In a virtual briefing, Abalos noted the slight increase in the National Capital Region’s healthcare utilization rates (HCURs), especially in its ICU beds, as shown by daily data from Jan. 6 to 9, but said these figures were still within the metrics for Alert Level 3.

Metro Manila’s total bed utilization rate still dwells within the 50 to 70% range prescribed for Alert Level 3 under the Department of Health metrics.

Abalos also cited the NCR mayors’ resolution slapping tighter restrictions on the unvaccinated — which is only in effect under the region’s current alert level status — and how this would better protect them against the highly infectious Omicron variant.

He also mentioned the high vaccination rates in Metro Manila. As of Jan. 8, the region has administered over 22.64 million COVID-19 vaccine shots. Of this number, more than 924,500 already received booster shots — breaching the over 763,900 target for January.

Given the current restrictions, NCR residents have likewise resorted to “self-regulating” as shown by lower foot traffic in malls and vehicular traffic in major thoroughfares in the past days, Abalos added.

“We will continuously monitor specifically the HCUR kung anong mangyayari rito. At kung kinakailangan dalhin sa Alert Level 4, ipapasok po namin [as to what will happen. And if we need to go to Alert Level 4, we will do it.] But for the meantime, the mayors see no need to escalate to Alert Level 4,” he said, assuring they will alert the DOH themselves, should these rates go up.

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion echoed the sentiment, saying upgrading to the stricter Alert Level 4 wouldn't even have much impact on businesses, which are already slowing down amid the rapid spread of COVID-19.

"There's really no need to even move to Alert Level 4 because by itself, mobility has slowed down tremendously," Concepcion told CNN Philippines on Monday night.

"Who's going to go out when infection is all over the place?" he said. "People will not go out. People will not dine out. People will not shop. They've already shopped last quarter, so they have consumed their savings. Definitely, businesses will be slow."

NCR is currently under Alert Level 3 until Jan. 15.

Persons behind circulating audio clips ‘should be jailed’

The MMDA official also condemned individuals who create and spread audio clips containing false information. These include recent recordings shared around social media asking the public to stock up on goods because a supposed “total lockdown” will be imposed due to ballooning cases.

Dapat talaga ma-trace ng NBI ito at mapakulong ang mga taong ‘to, eh. Meron tayong krisis. Kinakalma natin ang tao that there’s nothing to worry about. Lalo nilang ginugulo; nanggagaya pa sila ng boses ng sino-sino,” said Abalos.

[Translation: These persons should be traced by the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) and jailed. We already have a crisis. We’re calming people down that there’s nothing to worry about, but they’re causing further confusion and even imitating voices of other personalities.]

Still, he said there’s no need for Metro Manila mayors to pass a resolution to send these persons to jail as there are enough laws.

May mga batas naman tayo diyan... All that we have to do right now is mahanap talaga ‘yung nanggagaya ng boses ng Presidente or kung sino. Dapat talaga ipakulong ‘yun dahil 'di na biro ito. Kaya mga marites, ‘wag niyo gagawin ‘yan. Delikado kayo sa NBI,” quipped Abalos.

[Translation: We already have laws… All that we have to do right now is find whoever is mimicking the President or whichever personality. They really must be imprisoned because this is no laughing matter. To all the marites, don’t do that because the NBI will get you.]

Malacañang also criticized the circulating audio clip and dismissed its contents as “baseless rumors.”