By ADRIAN STEWART CO and IME SORNITO
ILOILO – After months of being under Alert Level 2, this province is shifting to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Alert Level 1, acting Presidential Spokesman Martin Andanar announced on Friday.
This is good for Iloilo’s economy, according to Gov. Arthur Defensor Jr. who welcomed the de-escalation of the alert level.
That’s because all establishments, persons, or activities are permitted to operate, work or be done at full onsite capacity under Alert Level 1, provided that health standards are observed, he explained.
The new alert level, which will be from May 1 to 15, was decided by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).
Defensor had been appealing to the IATF-EID for an alert downgrade.
According to Defensor, the province already fully vaccinated against COVID-19 70.13 percent of its 1,684,570 target population, thus the shift to Alert Level 1 was warranted.
Under Alert Level 1, which was described by Department of Health as the “new normal”, intrazonal and interzonal travel is allowed regardless of age, and those with comorbidities are allowed to travel to the province, too.
Defensor said the S-PaSS requirement for inbound travelers may be scrapped. The S-PaSS is a travel management system developed by the Department of Science and Technology primarily intended to make travelling of Locally Stranded Individuals (LSIs), Returning Overseas Filipinos (ROFs) Emergency Travelers (ETs), and other travelers during this pandemic safe, swift and smart.
In person or “face-to-face” classes for basic education, on the other hand, will be subject to the approval of the Office of the President.
Despite this welcome development, however, Defensor reminded Ilonggos not to be complacent and continue observing the health protocols – wearing of facemask, physical distancing and regular disinfection of hands.
He also urged the still unvaccinated Ilonggos to get the jab, and those already fully vaccinated to get booster shots.
Nineteen towns of the province are actually already under Alert Level 1 for having low COVID-19 cases and high vaccination rates (over 70 percent of their target population). These are Zarraga, Batad, Anilao, Balasan, Banate, Barotac Nuevo, Barotac Viejo, Bingawan, Concepcion, Dueñas, Guimbal, Janiuay, Lemery, Mina, Pototan, San Dionisio, Santa Barbara, Tubungan, and New Lucena.
Aside from Iloilo province, Andanar said Iloilo City, Bacolod City, Capiz, Aklan and Guimaras will remain under Alert Level 1 for the first 15 days of May.
Andanar also said Region 6’s component cities and municipalities such as Candoni in Negros Occidental and Tobias Fournier in Antique will move to Alert Level 1.
The acting Palace spokesperson, meanwhile, said Antique and Negros Occidental will still be under COVID-19 Alert Level 2 status .
“The Alert Level 2 status of (Negros Occidental and Antique) is without prejudice to their respective component cities and municipalities which may otherwise be classified herein,” Andanar said.
Under Alert Level 2, intrazonal and interzonal movement will be allowed, subject to reasonable restrictions that the local government units may impose.
Select establishments or activities are permitted to operate at a maximum of 50 percent indoor capacity for fully vaccinated individuals and 70 percent outdoor capacity./PN