A volcano warning? Declaration of Alert Level 4 of GCQ in NCR ensues confusion, ‘panic’

September 14, 2021 - 5:51 PM
A makeshift barricade blocks a street from outsiders to protect a neighbourhood from the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Manila, Philippines, March 23, 2020. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)

Is it a volcano alert level? No, it’s Metro Manila‘s soon-to-be quarantine status.

The government will place the National Capital Region under Alert Level 4 of the general community quarantine status beginning Thursday as part of a new lockdown scheme to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

The quarantine status will last until September 30.

Palace has narrowed down the quarantine classifications in NCR to either GCQ or enhanced community quarantine.

Prior to this, the government has been placing the region under modified enhanced community quarantine.

Meanwhile, Thursday is also the beginning of the granular lockdown implementation that can be declared “regardless of Alert Level” status.

RELATED: Safety concerns aired amid confusion over alert level system, granular lockdown scheme

Alert Level 4 is the second strictest tier of the five-level alert system which is declared in cities and municipalities that have high and/or increasing case counts, and having high utilization of the total bed utilization rate and intensive care unit utilization rate.

Under this alert level, minors and elderlies, those with comorbidities and pregnant women must stay at home unless they need to access essential goods and services or needed to go to work.

Activities allowed indoors are only supposed to operate at 10% capacity and it must only serve fully vaccinated individuals. These are dining, personal care services and religious gatherings.

Outdoor activities, on the other hand, can operate at 30% capacity.

Other establishments can operate at 100% capacity but are encouraged to limit their on-site capacity and implement flexible work arrangements.

A shortened curfew from 10 p.m. to 4 p.m. would also be implemented in NCR starting September 16.

RELATED: Metro Manila under Alert Level 4 beginning September 16

Taal Volcano? 

The declaration of the metro being under Alert Level 4 of GCQ alarmed some Filipinos who initially thought that it pertained to a volcano’s alert level, particularly Taal in Batangas.

This made the phrase land on local Twitter’s trending list on Tuesday.

Alert Level 4
(Screengrab from Twitter by Interaksyon)

“Not me waking up in a panic (because) they were saying something about Alert Level 4 only to calm down (because) oh, it’s just about the lockdown. I THOUGHT IT WAS ABOUT THE VOLCANO. I LIVE NEAR THE F**KING VOLCANO,” a Twitter user wrote in response to the tweets reporting on NCR’s next quarantine status.

“After all the terminologies we used for QUARANTINE, now it sounded like there’s a volcanic eruption. This government came up using ALERT LEVEL!” another online user exclaimed.

“Yawaaa alert level 4 is currently trending and I thought Taal Volcano is acting up again, grabe mini heart attack,” a different Filipino wrote.

“Akala ko tungkol sa Taal ‘yung Alert Level 4. Sa lockdown pala p*ta, daming series ng CQ (community quarantine) na ‘to. Hays,” another Twitter user said in response to the announcement.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology also uses the phrase “Alert Level” to describe the status of volcanoes in the country.

Taal Volcano, which has been under the radar ever since last year’s eruption, has the following Alert Levels:

  • Alert Level 0: Normal
  • Alert Level 1: Low-Level Unrest
  • Alert Level 2: Increasing Unrest
  • Alert Level 3: Intensified Unrest or Magmatic Unrest
  • Alert Level 4: Hazardous Eruption Imminent
  • Alert Level 5: Highly Hazardous Eruption in Progress

Alert Level 4 in terms of Taal’s status also means having the following activity:

“Accelerating changes or abrupt decline in parameters: Rapidly intensifying volcanic earthquakes, continuous volcanic tremor, frequent felt earthquakes; Profuse degassing or ash explosions along existing or new vents and fissures; Elevated and/or sudden drop in SO2 (sulfur dioxide) flux; Accelerating increase or reversal of ground deformation patterns and ground fissuring; Explosive eruption or lava effusion with or without volcanic lightning commence.” 

This is interpreted as the following:

“Strong phreatomagmatic or magmatic eruption is taking place, which may or may not lead to violently explosive eruption. Widespread ashfall and ballistics, lava flows and minor pyroclastic density currents (PDCs) on TVI may be generated.” 

TVI refers to Taal Volcano Island.

When the Batangas-based volcano erupted last year, it was declared under Alert Level 4.