The Philippines' Department of Health (DOH) reported 18,056 new COVID-19 infections on Tuesday, bringing the total number of cases in the Southeast Asian country to 2,266,066.
The department said 12 laboratories failed to submit data. "The relatively low cases today is due to lower laboratory output last Sunday," it said.
On Saturday, the DOH reported its highest ever daily tally with 26,303 cases.
The Philippines, which has around 110 million population, has tested over 18 million people since the outbreak in January 2020.
The Philippines is shifting towards more targeted and recalibrated actions towards high-risk activities, imposing targeted or granular lockdowns at the household and community level, and implementing targeted response strategies to prevent transmission and reduce economic strain.
The government will place Metro Manila, the epicenter of over 13 million people, under alert level 4, the second-highest alert level, starting Sept. 16 due to high and increasing case counts with total COVID-19 beds and intensive care beds at increasing occupancy rates.
Under alert level 4, the government will ramp up active case finding, conduct risk-based testing using RT-PCR swab test, and fast-track vaccination among high-risk groups, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.
"There will also be intensified granular lockdowns from barangay (the smallest political unit in the Philippines) down to the household level to contain the transmission," Vergeire said in a televised press conference.
Local government units will impose hard lockdowns for no less than 14 days on areas tagged as critical zones.
Vergeire said Metro Manila remains "at high-risk" due to high infections and high intensive care utilization.
"Metro Manila is currently a high-risk case classification as it maintains a moderate risk two-week growth rate and high risk average daily attack rate increased from 30.44 in the previous weeks to 39.09 per 100,000 population in the recent week," Vergeire said.
She added Metro Manila also has a high-risk intensive care utilization rate at 77.5 percent, while bed occupancy is near high-risk classification at 69.5 percent.
Alert level 4 refers to areas wherein case counts are high and increasing, with total bed occupancy rate and intensive care unit utilization rate at high level.
Under alert level 4, the government will allow outdoor dine-in services, barbershops, hair spas, beauty salons, and physical, religious gatherings to operate up to 30 percent of their outdoor seating capacity, regardless of vaccinations status.
These establishments are allowed to operate at a limited 10 percent indoor venue or seating capacity. Still, they may only cater to individuals who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in addition to their allowed outdoor capacities.
Metro Manila residents below 18 years and over 65 years old, those with underlying health conditions, and pregnant women are not allowed to go out of their houses, except for the purpose of buying essential goods and going to services or work in permitted industries.
Intrazonal and internal travel are allowed, meaning that Metro Manila residents can move around the capital and its adjacent areas.
Government offices will remain in full operation and must follow at least 20 percent on-site working capacity backed with work-from-home arrangements.
Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman Bennu Abalos said curfew hours in Metro Manila will be shortened to 10:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. when the capital region shifts to alert level 4.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano said the updated COVID-19 alert levels system, from level 1 to 5, will be first implemented in Metro Manila from Sept. 16 to Sept. 30. Ano said the government will assess the pilot implementation in the capital region and recommend to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte a possible nationwide implementation later on.