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Guide: COVID-19 Alert Level System & Granular Lockdowns in Metro Manila - go!
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Guide to the New COVID-19 Alert Level System and Granular Lockdowns in Metro Manila

The more you know, the better prepared you are

The last year and a half has been tricky, with our country experiencing various levels of lockdown due to COVID-19. So in an effort to consolidate and clarify, a new system has been applied in lieu of Enhanced Community Quarantine, Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine, General Community Quarantine and Modified General Community Quarantine—widely referred to as ECQ, MECQ, GCQ and MGCQ, respectively. 

The announcement was made earlier this week, and the system will first be pilot tested in Metro Manila, which falls under Alert Level 4.

COVID-19 Alert Level System Cheat Sheet by Rappler
Image Source: Rappler

But what are the various Alert Levels and how do they compare? Before we get to that, it’s important to first know what a granular lockdown is:

What is a granular lockdown?

Simply put, a granular lockdown is a more precise quarantine enforced in areas that are tagged “critical zones” or are high-risk. With the new alert level system, it is dictated that the granular lockdown will occur for a “standard” 14 days and can be applied to cover specific areas of a city or down—including streets, barangays and a floor of a condominium. 

In this type of lockdown, no movement is allowed except for the following:

  • health and allied-health professionals 
  • overseas Filipino workers returning from abroad who have completed their quarantine upon return
  • people with medical conditions that need urgent attention 
  • other emergencies

And now, for the Alert Levels:

Alert Level 1

This is the lowest alert level that can be imposed and is saved for areas with low case transmissions, hospital bed utilization rate and intensive care unit utilization rates. Under Alert Level 1, 

  • Movement of people is permitted except in closed spaces or activities that require close contact 
  • All establishments, persons and activities are allowed to operate, work at full capacity in accordance with minimum public health standards, unless located in areas under granular lockdown 

Alert Level 2

Alert Level 2 is meant to be applicable for areas with low case transmission, health care utilization is low or case counts are low though increasing, or for areas with low case counts and are continuously decreasing but total bed and intensive care unit occupancy rates are increasing. 


  • Movement of people is allowed, with the exception of reasonable restrictions. All are allowed to access essential goods and services or for work in permitted industries
  • Individual outdoor exercises are allowed for all, despite age, comorbidities and vacation status
  • Government agencies will be in full operation and will implement an on-site working capacity of at least 50%
  • Unless the area is under granular lockdown, the following are allowed at 50% capacity

      ◦ Indoor visits of tourist attractions

      ◦ Indoor venues for meetings, conferences and events

      ◦ Indoor entertainment venues with live performers 

      ◦ Amusement parks and theme parks

      ◦ Indoor recreational venues (internet cafes, bowling alleys, etc.)

      ◦ Indoor face-to-face or in-person classes, examinations

      ◦ Casinos and other gaming establishment 

      ◦ In-person religious gatherings

      ◦ Gatherings for wakes, inurnment and funerals for death causes other than  COVID-19

      ◦ Social events (concerns, parties, wedding receptions, birthday parties, etc.)

      ◦ Indoor dine-in services of food establishments

      ◦ Indoor sports courts or venues

      ◦ Personal care services

Alert Level 3

Alert Level 3 is reserved for areas with high and/or increasing case counts and increasing bed utilization and intensive care utilization rates.

Under Alert Level 3, 

  • Intrazonal and interzonal travel may be allowed by the LGU of the destination
  • Individual outdoor exercises are allowed for all, despite age, comorbidities and vacation status
  • People are allowed access to essential goods and services, and to work in permitted industries
  • Still banned: operations of indoor entertainment (cinemas, karaoke bars, bars, clubs, concert halls and theaters, as well as outdoor and indoor amusement parks or theme parks, playgrounds, etc.

Alert Level 4

Those areas that have high and/or increasing case counts and where ICU beds are at a high utilization rate are tagged under Alert Level 4. Here, 

  • Persons below 18 and over 65 years old, those with comorbidities and pregnant women are not allowed outside of their homes, except for purchasing essential goods and services from permitted industries 
  • Individual outdoor exercises are allowed regardless of age, comorbidities or vaccination status. However, only within the place of residence (barangay, subdivision, etc.). 
  • Outdoor dine-in services in operate at maximum of 30% capacity
  • Personal care services (barbershops, salons, nail spas) and in-person religious gatherers are allowed at 30% capacity only when conducted outdoors
  • Government agencies will operate with at least 20% capacity

Alert Level 5

For those areas with “alarming” case counts and critical bed and ICU utilization rates, there is Alert Level 5. Here, the areas shall observe all the guidelines applicable to Enhanced Community Quarantine. 

With cases still on the rise, it’s best to always act with precaution—no matter what your city or town’s Alert Level is. Keep your masks on, continue to practice social distancing and keep your guard up! 

Art Matthew Ian Fetalver

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