Alert Level 0? Government reminded that pandemic is not yet over

March 18, 2022 - 6:44 PM
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People wearing masks walk in a shopping district amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Seoul, South Korea, March 16, 2022. (Reuters/Heo Ran)

The pandemic is not yet over, Filipinos on social media note, pointing to a surge in COVID-19 cases in other countries amid continuous discussions over whether government should downgrade the current restrictions to Alert Level 0.

Outbreaks of Omicron sub-variants occurred in several countries in Europe and Asia in the past weeks, possibly signaling a surge in local COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks. Still severely affected by COVID-19 are Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, South Korea and Hong Kong.

Eric Topol, an American scientist and author, tweeted the latest graph about the situation as of March 16, according to the tracker Our World in Data.

“While many countries Europe and Asia-Pacific have Omicron BA.1 and BA.2 breakouts, some countries, like the United States, are cutting funds to prepare, somehow thinking they are immune,” Topol said.

In the graph, South Korea recorded the highest additional infections for that day with over 7,000 new cases per million people.

The BA.1 and BA.2 are the two sub variants or sub lineages of the variant Omicron that the World Health Organization considered as “variants of concern.”

The health body continues to monitor and study these variants particularly on transmissibility and severity to patients.

Prior to these sub-variants, some researchers also reported a possible new variant called Deltacron. It is seen as a hybrid version with combined Delta and Omicron elements.

The WHO, however, denied that a “super variant” exists.

READ: No more face masks during Alert Level 0? Netizens raise threats of Deltacron (philstar.com)

Amid these external threats, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III eyed to de-escalate the country into a new alert level status called “Alert Level 0” which basically means there is no longer an alert.

MMDA (Metropolitan Manila Development Authority) Chairman Romando Artes also later stated that Metro Manila mayors are also willing to discuss the possibility of lowering the current alert level status in the region.

Metro Manila and other areas are currently placed under COVID-19 Alert Level 1, the most relaxed classification.

What are the concerns?

Several Filipinos opposed the “Alert Level O” idea or any proposals to de-escalate the preventive measures in place.

They pointed out that many other countries are currently facing spikes of COVID-19 cases due to new variants.

“There are surges going on in nearby countries with better vaccination rates. DOH doesn’t publicize daily cases anymore. Airports are open and welcoming travelers from everywhere. And someone is twiddling thumbs fantasizing Alert level Zero,” neurologist Leonard Pascual said.

“Cases all around the world are starting surge once again. Nagbabasa ba kayo ng world news?!” another user tweeted.

Statistician Peter Cayton urged the government to impose tighter border controls.

“I think we need to strengthen our sieve on international travelers, especially with surge seen from outside,” Cayton tweeted.

Researcher TJ Cipriano, meanwhile, expressed disappointment over the government’s still-poor response to the crisis even after more than two years.

“It is really appalling that two years into the pandemic, we are reverting back to the “old normal” (albeit gradually) that led us into this kind of disaster in the first place. It is as if we haven’t learn a thing or two about our pandemic experience to make our systems better,” Cipriano wrote.

Alert Level 1 will remain

In the latest briefing on March 17, Duque announced that the Alert Level 1 status of Metro Manila and other areas will likely remain until further notice.

The health secretary made this decision after acknowledging the threats of the variants from other countries.

“Tingin ko baka ito ay hanggang sa katapusan lahat. And of course, depende pa rin sa mga nagbabadyang mga variants, mutations dahil kapag mayroon tayong confirmation na naman ng mas peligroso – sana huwag naman – na variant Iyan ang kagandahan ng naka-Alert Level system tayo,” Duque said.