Updated at 12:16 am
The government is ready for the possible implementation of stringent measures under Alert Level 4 if the coronavirus situation in the country worsens, Malacañang said on Tuesday.
In a virtual press briefing, acting Palace spokesman Karlo Alexei Nograles said the government will not think twice about escalating the alert level status in the National Capital Region (NCR or Metro Manila) and neighboring areas should the health care utilization rate (HCUR) reach the threshold for Alert Level 4.
"We have been preparing our hospitals. Which is why there's a call to increase the bed capacities. There's a call to increase the capacities of our TTMFs (temporary treatment and monitoring facilities) or isolation facilities, and of course, we're doing real-time updating on our health care workers, the augmentation of our health care workers. So all of these, we're doing it in preparation for that eventuality," Nograles replied when asked if the government can afford shifting to Alert Level 4 for the NCR.
Nograles also said Metro Manila has not met the parameters for it to be placed under Covid-19 Alert Level 4 despite the increasing Covid-19 cases in the region.
He added that the government is monitoring the two-week growth rate, average daily attack rate and total bed utilization to assess if the alert level in Metro Manila should be heightened.
As of Monday, Nograles said the capital region has a 52 percent ICU utilization rate, 54 percent isolation bed utilization rate and 67 percent ward bed utilization rate.
"We have not breached the threshold for Alert Level 4," the official said.
Alert Level 4, the second highest in the country's Covid-19 alert level system, can be declared in areas where case counts are high and increasing and where the total bed utilization rate and intensive care unit utilization rate are also high.
Based on the guidelines of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, as of Dec. 14, 2021, inter-zonal travel is allowed under Alert Level 4 subject to regulations of local government units, except for those below 18 years old, those above 65 years old, those with comorbidity or other health risks, and pregnant women.
Some establishments, including venues for indoor and outdoor contact sports, cinemas, "perya (carnivals)," venues where children may play, karaoke bars, clubs, concert halls, theaters, casinos, horse racing venues, cockpits, lottery venues and betting shops will not be allowed to operate.
Gathering in residences with individuals not belonging to the same household is also prohibited.
Metro Manila is under Alert Level 3 until January 15.
On Monday, the Department of Health (DoH) reported 33,169 new Covid-19 infections, the highest since the pandemic started in March 2020.
Of the 33,169 fresh cases, 32,972 or 99 percent occurred within the recent 14 days from Dec. 28 to Jan. 10, 2022.
In the recent two weeks, Metro Manila had the highest number of new cases with 18,535 or 56 percent, followed by Calabarzon with 7,443 or 23 percent and Central Luzon with 3,403 or 10 percent.
This is the third straight day that the Health department posted record-high fresh cases.
On Saturday, new record-high infections were reported with 26,458, the highest daily case count since September 11, 2021.
This number was surpassed on Sunday with 28,707 new infections.
Meanwhile, Nograles assured the public that the government's coronavirus response, particularly its vaccination program, will not be politicized.
He asked the Department of the Interior and Local Government "to ensure that local government units deliver as far as vaccination efforts are concerned."
"What we in the national government will do is make sure na that our works won't be hampered. We will continue to focus on the deliverables. May mga target tayo. Naka-set ang mga targets na 'yan (We have our target. We've set our target) and we continue to deliver sa national government," Nograles said.
"We will make sure that vaccination and our Covid-19 response is not politicized and that everybody stays and remains neutral especially in the distribution of vaccines," he added.
The Palace official justified President Rodrigo Duterte's directive to barangay (village) captains nationwide to restrain the movement of those unvaccinated amid the surge in Covid-19 cases.
Citing health experts, Nograles said unvaccinated individuals are at higher risk of experiencing critical Covid-19 symptoms or death.
Nograles then urged senior citizens who are yet to receive their Covid-19 shots to get inoculated.
The DoH had bared that 3 million senior citizens remain unvaccinated.
The country has over 9 million Filipinos 60 years old and above as of 2019.
As of January 10, over 52.8 million individuals had been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 in the country.