IATF to make final decision on NCR alert levels today

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 13) — The government is close to finalizing details of the pilot run of a COVID-19 alert level system in Metro Manila for the second half of September.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Source on Monday morning, Interior Undersecretary Epimaco Densing said the guidelines of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases will be announced "most probably in the afternoon."

Under the proposed system which will be in place from September 16-30, the Health department will be determining which areas will be under Alert Levels 1 to 4, while the IATF will be the one to declare whether an area needs to be placed under Alert Level 5 or total lockdown.

READ: EXPLAINER: What you need to know about the COVID-19 alert level system in NCR 

"As of last Thursday, most of the provisions of the guidelines in the pilot areas — sa NCR lang itong mga alert levels (the alert levels will only be applied in the NCR) — has been approved except for three items which we talked about in the TWG last Friday," Densing said, referring to the technical working group of the IATF.

"It will be the main areas for approval this morning in the IATF meeting. The target implementation is September 16 to September 30 for the National Capital Region only in the meantime," he added.

Densing said the latest policy which was already approved last week still had three unresolved areas which will be settled in the Monday meeting. These are: the validity of using hospital utilization rates in local governments, the implementation of vaccine bubbles, and whether or not al fresco dining can still be allowed at a certain percentage under the strictest alert level.

Densing said he acknowledges the concerns of Metro Manila mayors about the classification of the alert levels based on the number of COVID-19 cases and hospital utilization rates, noting that there are "26% of (admitted) patients who are not residents" of the capital region. However, he said he does not want to preempt the decision of the task force.

RELATED: DOH urged: Non-residents should be excluded from LGUs' COVID data

He added that the proposed bubble for vaccinated people to boost consumer spending and allow greater mobility was previously met with "a bit of an opposition" from the health sector, since inoculated individuals can still catch the virus.

READ: 'Bubbles' for fully vaccinated to create more econ activity, lessen lockdowns - Palace adviser 

Meanwhile, Densing noted that under the proposed alert level system, local government units can declare granular lockdowns in affected areas with a 12-hour notice, while areas with clustered infections "can be locked down immediately." An active case finding process and rapid testing will also be conducted.

However, no financial assistance will be provided to LGUs. Only a two-week supply of food packs and protective equipment will be distributed, Densing said.

This story will be updated as soon as the latest IATF guidelines on the COVID-19 alert level system comes out.