MANILA — In a press briefing on Monday, February 28, Cabinet Sec. Karlo Nograles quoted National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Sec. Karl Chua that the shift of Metro Manila and 38 other areas to Alert Level 1 (the most lenient of all COVID-19 alert levels effective March 1 to 15) will add PHP9.4 billion in weekly economic activity.

“Ang expectations po natin na additional is P9.4 billion worth in economic activity per week and 170,000 less unemployed individuals in the next 3 months kung tuloy-tuloy pa po itong pag-a-Alert Level 1 natin,” Nograles said.

Under Alert Level 1, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases is reminding the use of well-fitted masks at all times whether indoors or outdoors in private or public establishments as the movements of persons regardless of age will be allowed along with full capacity on venues and public transportation subject to minimum health protocols.

“On contact tracing, the use of health declaration forms or paper-based contact tracing shall not be required for all agencies and establishments under Alert Level 1,” the IATF said, noting the use of digital contact tracing such as the StaySafe.PH application is optional.

“On isolation and quarantine, establishments are no longer required to set up isolation facilities within the workplace,” it added.

For individuals 18 years old and above, the IATF said they will be required to present proof of full vaccination before participating in mass gatherings or entry into indoor

establishments, such as but not limited to churches, restaurants, fitness studios and gyms, indoor cinemas, meetings and exhibition venues, wedding receptions, birthday parties, hotels and other accommodation establishments, and venues for election-related events.

500,000 more jobs

In a report by ONE News, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Sec. Ramon Lopez said the National Capital Region’s (NCR) shift to Alert Level 1 will allow businesses to hire more employees to support full capacity operations.

“If we assume de-escalation of NCR and key cities and provinces, we hope to generate around 500,000 more jobs over time,” Lopez said in a Viber message to reporters over the weekend, noting 800,000 more jobs will be added over time if restrictions will be removed for the entire country.

From January to December 2021, Lopez noted that 5.2 million jobs including from programs under the National Employment Recovery Strategy (NERS) were created.

Meanwhile, Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) President Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. said the private sector initiative One Million Jobs for 2021 project in partnership with the government created 640,000 jobs as of end-January 2022.

Ortiz-Luis said they expect to attain the initial target of creating one million jobs last year by the second quarter of 2022 if restrictions will further ease.

“These are not the same jobs that were lost. These jobs are incremental,” he said.

OCTA: Shift can help buffer economic impacts of the Ukraine-Russia conflict

In another report by GMA News, OCTA Research fellow Dr. Guido David told a Laging Handa briefing on February 28, NCR and other areas’ shift to Alert Level 1 can help with the country’s economic recovery and lessen the impacts of the continuing Ukraine-Russia conflict.

“We need this na rin eh. I mean, we need to balance public health and the economy, (but) with the growing concerns worldwide, internationally especially ‘yung Ukraine-Russia war, we have to be able to keep up with the economic impact and this is the one way of keeping up with (it),” David said.

“With the Ukraine-Russia conflict, it changes the importance of things. That’s why it’s also important for us to make sure na ‘yung economic recovery natin is on its way so that ma-minimize ‘yung impact ng effects ng other countries sa ating situation,” he added.

David also noted that the country’s COVID-19 cases may drop to less than 1,000 infections per day from this week.

“We’re projecting na by tomorrow, nasa triple number na lang ‘yung cases natin sa buong bansa. By next week, definitely, tuloy-tuloy na ‘yan daily, we won’t be seeing more than 1,000 cases,” he said, noting cases may decrease by around 500 per day by mid-March.

As of February 28, the Philippines has 3,661,997 total COVID-19 cases after logging 951 new infections.