Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said on Tuesday night the Philippines was already at high risk from COVID-19 amid a surge in infections.
The steady increase in cases prompted the government to place Laguna under Alert Level 3 beginning Friday, Jan. 7, until January 15, acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles said in a statement.
Laguna joins neighboring provinces Bulacan, Cavite, and Rizal as well as Metro Manila under the much stricter Alert Level 3.
Duque, during President Rodrigo Duterte’s “Talk to the People” public briefing, said the country had a 448 percent two-week growth rate in COVID-19 cases.
The average daily attack rate (ADAR), meanwhile, was at 1.66.
The Philippines’ previous two-week growth rate was minus 49 percent, while its ADAR was at 0.30.
Duque added that between Dec. 29, 2021 and Jan. 4, the Philippines reported a daily average of 3,313 COVID-19 infections.
He said this was 849 percent higher than the 349 average daily cases reported between Dec. 22 and Dec. 28.
“A big portion of the cases come from the National Capital Region.
Almost 70 percent come from the NCR. So you will really see the uptick in our case,” Duque said in Filipino.
The NCR was tagged with a critical risk classification for having a two-week growth rate of 1,475 percent and an ADAR of 8.79. Following Metro Manila was Region 4A (557 percent tw-week growth rate; 1.60 ADAR), and Region 3 (339 percent two-week growth rate; 0.91 ADAR).
The utilization of hospital facilities in the country was also on the rise, with the bed utilization rate as of Jan. 3 at 24 percent or 6 points higher than the 18 percent reported on Dec. 27.
The intensive care unit utilization rate, meanwhile, was at 26 percent or an increase of 8 points, while mechanical ventilator usage was at 14 percent, up by 4 points.
However, despite the rise in infections, Duque said that deaths due toCOVID-19 were still falling in the country.
“Our death curve is still falling. This is proof that our vaccination program against COVID has been effective,” Duque said.
So far, the Philippines has administered 109,309,588 COVID-19 vaccine doses as of Jan. 3, while 61,151,369 people received their first doses, and 50,159,858 were fully vaccinated. About 1,968,913 have received booster doses.
To prevent more infections, Duque called for the suspension of mass gatherings such as the traditional January 9 Traslacion on the feast of the Black Nazarene.
Epidemiologist John Wong added that to address the COVID surge the government must prioritize vaccinating the unvaccinated, especially the elderly. More Filipinos should also be convinced of the benefits of vaccines to boost inoculations.
Wong added that widespread use of antigen tests was also necessary, along with encouraging mild cases to get themselves treated at home to prevent the clogging of hospitals
“The rapid rise in cases looks like the signature of Omicron,” he said, referring to the highly contagious variant of the coronavirus. “Omicron doubles every two days and this is what’s happening,”
Wong said COVID-19 spread quickly due to more Filipinos traveling to celebrate with people outside of their households during the holiday season, as well as infections imported from outside the country.
The National Capital Region Police Office, meanwhile, said it would implement guidelines and health protocols strictly to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
NCRPO director P/Maj. Gen Vicente Danao Jr. said the NCRPO will enforce the Metro Manila Council resolution to impose mobility restrictions on unvaccinated individuals.
“We will be strict in the implementation of laws and ordinances to protect our citizens from this deadly virus,” Danao said.
The Supreme Court, meanwhile, said only 30 percent to 50 percent of court workers may report for work from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in trial courts in Bulacan, Cavite and Rizal.
The three provinces are under the more restrictive COVID-19 Alert Level 3 until Jan. 15 due to a spike in coronavirus infections.
Due to rising cases of infections among personnel, the SC had suspended work for three days until today, Jan. 5.
Sandiganbayan offices in Quezon City are physically closed until Thursday, Jan. 6, when 12 employees tested positive for COVID-19 infections.
The suspension of work in the Supreme Court has been extended until Saturday, Jan. 8, due to “a high positivity rate” of personnel tested for infections with the coronavirus disease.
Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo said the extended suspension of work would enable the Court to do “massive antigen testing and contact tracing.”
The Bureau of Immigration (BI), meanwhile, assured the traveling public that there will be no reduction in the work schedule of its manpower deployed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and other ports despite the resurgence of COVID-19 cases.
Also on Wednesday, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said it has taken measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among railway personnel and commuters.
All personnel are now required to take an antigen test, with a confirmatory RT-PCR test for those who will test positive.
The first batch of antigen tests were done on Jan. 3 2022, where 99 of the 696 personnel tested were found positive.