GUIDE: Updated Alert Level System for COVID-19 response in the Philippines

Philippines COVID-19 Alert Level System
Check out this guide to find out more about the different alert levels for COVID-19 response in the Philippines. Photo from LGU vs COVID PH website.

The Philippine government has placed the nation under varying forms of community quarantine, lockdowns, and more recently, alert levels to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

With the surges in new cases followed by declines, the country has experienced numerous shifts to various quarantine classifications since March 2020.

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The nationwide Alert Level System replaces the quarantine classifications comprised of ECQ, MECQ, GCQ, and MGCQ. The updated scheme includes new guidelines for the fully vaccinated and those belonging to vulnerable groups.

The following are the latest guidelines released by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) on the nationwide implementation of its Alert Level System for COVID-19 response on December 14, 2021.

There are currently five alert levels in the system:

Alert Level 1: Covers areas wherein case transmission is low and decreasing, total bed utilization rate, and intensive care unit utilization rate are low.

Alert Level 2: Covers areas wherein case transmission are low and decreasing, healthcare utilization is low, or case counts are low but increasing, or case counts are low and decreasing but total bed utilization rate and intensive care unit utilization rate is increasing.

Alert Level 3: Covers areas wherein case counts are high and/or increasing, with total bed utilization rate and intensive care unit utilization
rate is at increasing utilization.

Alert Level 4: The second-highest alert level covers areas wherein case counts are high and/or increasing, with total bed utilization rate and intensive care unit utilization rate at high utilization.

Alert Level 5: The highest alert level in the system covers areas wherein case counts are alarming, with total bed utilization rate and intensive care unit utilization rate at critical utilization.

Here are the key differences between the alert levels according to the latest IATF guidelines:

Alert Level 1:

Under the lowest level, the movement of people is unrestricted regardless of age or comorbidities.

All establishments, persons, or activities, are also allowed to operate, work, or be undertaken at full on-site or venue/seating capacity provided it is consistent with minimum public health standards.

Face-to-face classes for basic education in schools are subject to the approval of the Office of the President.

Alert Level 2:

The intrazonal and interzonal movement of people shall be allowed. Reasonable restrictions may be imposed by the LGUs but should not be stricter than those prescribed under higher alert levels.

Establishments and activities that are not allowed to operate under this alert level-unless given permission by the IATF or the Office of the President-include casinos, horse racing, cockfighting, lottery, cockpits, betting shops, and other gaming establishments.

The following establishments, or activities, shall be allowed to operate or be undertaken at a maximum of 50% indoor venue capacity for fully vaccinated individuals and those below 18 years of age, even if unvaccinated, and 70% outdoor venue capacity:

  • Venues for meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE)
  • Permitted venues for social events
  • Visitor or tourist attractions
  • Amusement parks or theme parks
  • Recreational venues
  • Cinemas and movie houses
  • In-person religious gatherings; gatherings for necrological services, wakes, inurnment, and funerals for those who died of causes other than COVID-19 and for the cremains of the COVID-19 deceased
  • Licensure or entrance/qualifying examinations
  • Dine-in services
  • Personal care establishments
  • Fitness studios, gyms, and venues for individual non-contact exercise and sports
  • Film, music, and television production
  • Funfairs/peryas or kid amusement industries
  • Venues with live voice or wind-instrument performers and audiences – such as in karaoke bars, clubs, concert halls, and theaters
  • Gatherings in residences with individuals not belonging to the same household
  • Limited face-to-face or in-person classes for basic education are subject to prior approval of the Office of the President
  • Limited face-to-face or in-person classes for higher education and for technical-vocational education and training
  • Under Alert Level 2, government service maintains 80% on-site workforce with work-from-home and flexible work arrangements.

Alert Level 3:

Intrazonal and interzonal movement shall be subject to the reasonable restrictions of LGUs, which should not be stricter than those prescribed under higher alert levels.

Individuals below 18 years of age, and those belonging to the vulnerable population, shall be allowed access to obtain essential goods and services, or for work in permitted industries and offices.

The following establishments and/or activities are characterized as high-risk for transmission and shall not be allowed to operate under this alert level:

  • Funfairs/peryas and kid amusement industries
  • Venues with live voice or wind-instrument performers and audiences such as in karaoke bars, clubs, concert halls, and theaters
  • Casinos, horse racing, cockfighting and operation of cockpits, lottery and betting shops, and other gaming establishments except as may be authorized by the IATF or the Office of the President
  • Gatherings in residences with individuals not belonging to the same household

The following establishments, or activities, shall be allowed to operate or be undertaken at a maximum of 30% indoor venue capacity for fully vaccinated individuals only and 50% outdoor venue capacity:

  • Venues for meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE)
  • Permitted venues for social events
  • Visitor or tourist attractions
  • Amusement parks or theme parks
  • Recreational venues
  • Cinemas and movie houses
  • In-person religious gatherings; gatherings for necrological services, wakes, inurnment, and funerals for those who died of causes other than COVID-19 and for the cremains of the COVID-19 deceased
  • Licensure or entrance/qualifying examinations
  • Dine-in services in food preparation establishments
  • Personal care establishments
  • Fitness studios, gyms, and venues for non-contact exercise and sports, subject to DTI sector-specific protocols
  • Film, music, and television production, subject to the joint guidelines as may be issued by the DTI, DOLE, and the DOH
  • Schools are not permitted to hold face-to-face or in-person classes for basic education, except those previously approved by the IATF and/or the Office of the President.

Government service maintains a 60% on-site workforce with work-from-home and other flexible work arrangements.

Under Alert Level 3, contact sports are not allowed, except for those conducted under a bubble-type setup. Individual outdoor exercises are still allowed for all ages regardless of comorbidities or vaccination status.

Alert Level 4:

Under the second-highest level in the system, intrazonal and interzonal travel shall be allowed subject to the reasonable regulations of the LGU of destination.

Intrazonal and interzonal shall be allowed except for those below 18 years of age, and belonging to the vulnerable population, namely, those who are over 65 years of age, those with immunodeficiencies, comorbidities, or other health risks, and pregnant women.

Minors and those belonging to the vulnerable groups shall still be allowed access to obtain essential goods and services, or for work in permitted industries and offices in accordance with existing labor laws, rules, and regulations.

The following establishments and/or activities are not allowed to operate under this level:

  • Cinemas and movie houses;
  • Funfairs/peryas and kid amusement industries
  • Venues with live voice or wind-instrument performers and audiences such as in karaoke bars, bars, clubs, concert halls, and theaters
  • Casinos, horse racing, cockfighting and operation of cockpits, lottery and betting shops, and other gaming establishments except as may be authorized by the IATF or the Office of the President
  • Gatherings in residences with individuals not belonging to the same household

The following establishments, or activities, shall be allowed to operate, or be undertaken at a maximum of 10% indoor venue capacity for fully vaccinated individuals only and 30% outdoor venue capacity provided that they have been issued a Safety Seal Certification:

  • Venues for meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE)
  • Permitted venues for social events such as parties, wedding receptions, engagement parties, wedding anniversaries, debut and birthday parties,
    family reunions, and bridal or baby showers
  • Visitor or tourist attractions
  • Amusement parks and theme parks
  • Recreational venues

These following establishments, or activities, shall likewise be allowed to operate, or be undertaken at a maximum of 10% indoor venue capacity for fully vaccinated individuals only and 30% outdoor venue capacity:

  • In-person religious gatherings
  • Licensure or entrance/qualifying examinations
  • Dine-in services in food preparation establishments
  • Personal care establishments
  • Fitness studios, gyms, and venues for non-contact exercise and sports
  • Film, music, and television production, subject to the joint guidelines as may be issued by the DTI, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), and the DOH
  • Gatherings for necrological services, wakes, inurnment, funerals for those who died of causes other than COVID-19, and for the cremains of the COVID-19 deceased, shall be allowed, provided that the same shall be limited to immediate family members.

Schools are not permitted to hold face-to-face or in-person classes for basic education except those approved by the IATF and/or the Office of the President. Likewise, no face-to-face or in-person classes for higher education or for technical, vocational education, and training will be held, except those approved by the IATF and/or the Office of the President.

Government service maintains a 40% on-site workforce with work-from-home and other flexible work arrangements for employees.

Under Alert Level 4, no contact sports are allowed. Individual outdoor exercises are allowed for fully vaccinated individuals under 18 years old and belonging to the vulnerable population, even beyond the general area of their respective residences, as long as they observe minimum public health standards and precautions.

Alert Level 5:

The movement of all persons shall be limited to accessing goods and services from permitted establishments and for work in such establishments.

Minors and persons belonging to vulnerable groups are required to remain in their residences at all times, except for obtaining essential goods and services, or for work in industries and offices.

Only the following establishments, persons, or activities are allowed to operate, work, or be undertaken for the duration of the Alert Level 5:

With full on-site capacity

  • Public and private hospitals
  • Health, emergency, and frontline services
  • Manufacturers of medicine and medical supplies
  • Agriculture, forestry, and fishery
  • Logistics service providers
  • Essential and priority projects
  • Manufacturers of food and essential goods
  • Food preparation establishments
  • Export-oriented businesses
  • Financial service providers
  • Essential retail trade and establishments
  • Manufacturers, distributors, or suppliers of construction products or equipment
  • Public transport

With 50% on-site capacity

  • Media establishments

Skeleton workforce

  • Dental clinics
  • Veterinary clinics
  • Home service therapy
  • Bank and money transfer services
  • Capital markets
  • Water supply and janitorial/sanitation services and facilities
  • The energy sector
  • Telecommunications
  • Airline and aircraft maintenance, pilots and crew, and employees of aviation schools
  • Funeral and embalming services
  • Security personnel licensed by the PNP – Supervisory Office for Security and Investigation Agencies
  • Printing establishments
  • Establishments engaged in repair and maintenance of machinery
  • Establishments engaged in repair and maintenance of motorized and non-motorized vehicles
  • Leasing of real and personal properties
  • Employment activities
  • Teachers, professors, and other staff
    Lawyers
    All other establishments, to the extent necessary for the buying and selling of consumer goods or services via the internet
  • Gatherings outside of residences shall be prohibited.
  • Gatherings at residences with any person outside of one’s immediate household shall likewise be prohibited.

Only gatherings that are essential for the provision of health services, government services, or humanitarian activities authorized by the appropriate government agency or instrumentality shall be allowed.

Under Alert Level 5, face-to-face or in-person classes at all levels shall be suspended.

Government service operates with a skeleton workforce and/or alternative work arrangements.

CHECK OUT this guide on what to do when you are suspected or confirmed to have COVID and the Philippines’ treatments and clinical practice guidelines for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 cases.

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Margo is a voracious reader - some might even say she reads too much for her own good. She majored in BS Psychology and hopes to become a forensic psychologist one day. She’s also an aspiring writer, mental health advocate, and a staunch believer of equality.