VAX TALKS. Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. (left) delivers his message at a mall vaccination site in Taytay, Rizal on Monday (Dec. 20, 2021). He thanked local government units and the private sector for their continued support in the national vaccination rollout. (PNA photo by Lade Kabagani)

MANILA – The Covid-19 Alert Level 2 status in Metro Manila will remain for the rest of the year despite the detection of a third Omicron variant case in the country, National Task Force (NTF) Against Covid-19 chief, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., said Monday.

The vaccine czar said the possible amendment on the alert level status will be based on the epidemiological recommendations of the Department of Health, considering key factors on cases surge and hospitalization rate.

"If the cases are high, including critical cases, and if the attack rate will increase, that's the time we will raise our alert level," Galvez said during a media briefing at a mall vaccination site in Taytay, Rizal.

Galvez said there is a continuing decline in Covid-19 cases in the country, with just 9,592 active infections as of Monday.

"Thank God, we maintained the low positivity rate. Actually, there are some areas that recorded less than one percent of positivity rate," he added.

Still, he cautioned the public against complacency amid the downtrend.

"For now, we will just maintain the alert level, but we will massively accelerate the vaccination. At the same time, we will revisit our preparations in terms of treatment, quarantine facilities, and hospital treatments as well as the responses of the local government units (LGUs)," he said.

Stringent border control measures against the Omicron variant are also in place, added Galvez.

"Though we prepared a good response in terms of stringent border controls, as I've said earlier, we expected that," he said. "The low cases and figures were sustained despite the opening of our economy.”

Galvez thanked anew LGUs and the private sector for proactively participating in the national Covid-19 vaccination days.

"And we have already reached our milestone of hitting 100 million jabs administered nationwide and we are now reaching 40 percent fully vaccinated out of our total population. That's a huge milestone," he said.

Secretary Vince Dizon, the Presidential Adviser on Covid-19 Response and NTF deputy chief, said the decision to impose lockdowns or to raise the alert level status should be based on the set parameters of number of cases, attack rate, and the two-week growth rate.

"As we say, we should take advantage of our low cases to prepare against the Omicron variant including acceleration of our vaccination program," Dizon said. (PNA)