LESS STRINGENT. Motorists endure bumper-to-bumper morning traffic along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City on Jan. 24, 2022. More of this scenario is expected when Metro Manila de-escalates to the less stringent Alert Level 2 on February 1 to 15. (PNA photo by Joey O. Razon)

MANILA – The de-escalation of the National Capital Region (NCR) from Alert Level 3 to the less stringent Alert Level 2 starting February 1 is a sign that the public observed health protocols and other guidelines to contain the Covid-19 surge, according to Interior Secretary Eduardo Año on Sunday.

NCR was placed on Level 3 on January 3 when the Omicron variant caused a rise in cases.

Año said monitoring will continue as people are expected to flock to malls and other public places while the workforce will increase.

Ang pinaka-importante kasi dyan 'yung cooperation ng lahat. Nakita naman natin nung nag-Alert Level 3, hindi na tayo nag-Level 4. Sila na 'yung nag-stop papunta ng mall, sila na mismo ‘yung tumigil sa mga ibang (The most important thing is the public’s cooperation. We didn’t reach Level 4. People stopped going to malls and doing other) activities. That's a good sign that we have learned so much from this pandemic,” he said in a taped interview shared with reporters on Sunday.

He said Filipinos have also realized the importance of getting vaccinated, recognizing the symptoms of Covid-19, and isolating when needed.

He emphasized that NCR's health care system coped with the surge.

Kahit na marami ‘yung numbers na na-infect, hindi overwhelmed 'yung ating health care facilities. ‘Yung nagkakasakit sa bahay lang gagaling so ibig sabihin pwede tayong magbukas ng mga economic activity. Ang kailangan lang dito ‘yung individual responsibility na watch out for yourself. Kapag ikaw ay naging close contact, dapat self-isolate na (Even if the number of infections surged, our health care facilities were not overwhelmed. Many got well at home so now we can resume our economic activities. Let’s just be responsible, look out for ourselves. When you’re a close contact, isolate right away). Look out for symptoms,” he said.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases also placed Batanes, Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal in Luzon; Biliran and Southern Leyte in the Visayas; and Basilan in Mindanao under Alert Level 2 until February 15, according to a statement by Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, also acting presidential spokesperson.

Aside from the general guidelines, local government units may impose other restrictions subject to evaluation. (PNA)