Record-high daily tally exceeds peak of Delta wave at 26,458
The country logged 26,458 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday—the highest daily tally since the start of the pandemic—surpassing the record during the height of the Delta wave and bringing the nationwide active cases to 102,017.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said it is “not far-fetched” that Metro Manila will be placed under Alert Level 4, the second most restrictive community quarantine level, as COVID-19 cases continue to surge.
“Health care utilization can easily go up to moderate risk, which means 50 to 70 percent occupied. We are at 47 to 48 percent now in terms of ICU use for Metro Manila. Many of our health care workers are getting sick,” Duque said.
“We are preparing for the possibility that hospitals will be fully occupied again. That is what we fear. So, it is not far-fetched that the National Capital Region will be placed under Alert Level 4,” he added.
The previous highest daily case count reported was 26,303 on September 11, 2021 when Metro Manila was placed under Enhanced Community Quarantine.
OCTA Research fellow Guido David said the increase in infections, likely Omicron-driven, may peak in February or at best by end-January.
He said the daily tally may hit 100,000.
Philippine Genome Center executive director Cynthia Saloma, for her part, told President Rodrigo Duterte during Thursday’s Talk to the
People that the soaring COVID-cases can exceed the record of the Delta wave by as much as four-fold, or more than 100,000 cases daily.
“The Department of Health and other government agencies should prepare as to how we can maximize our testing capacity. Because I already anticipate, Mr. President, that this will happen as the cases [increase]. If the peak of Delta is about 26,000 in September, we can anticipate based on experience from other countries, double, triple, four times this amount, and for that value to be there, the testing should be five times that number,” Saloma said.
Saturday’s tally pushed the country’s positivity rate to 43.7%, the highest since the pandemic started and higher than the World Health Organization’s requirement target of less than 5%.
Of the active cases, 3,399 are asymptomatic, 94,007 are mild cases; 2,842 are moderate cases while at least 1,462 are severe, and 307 are in critical condition.
The country’s death toll rose to 52,135 with 265 new fatalities.
Metro Manila and its neighboring provinces Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, and Laguna have been placed under Alert Level 3 while 14 more areas, including Batangas province, will also be under the same community quarantine level starting today (Jan. 9, 2022) until Jan. 15.
Under Alert Level 3, several establishments are allowed to operate at 30 percent indoor venue capacity only for fully vaccinated individuals and 50 percent outdoor venue capacity, provided that all employees are fully vaccinated.
Face-to-face classes, contact sports, and casinos are prohibited under Alert Level 3.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Rontgene Solante recommended placing high-risk areas, including Metro Manila, under Alert Level 4.
“We know that the escalation to a higher alert level will always be dictated by the number of cases. With the hospital facilities now, shortage of healthcare workers, and most of those patients with high transmissibility in the community, in my opinion, we need a higher alert level than what we have now,” Solante said.
“With the enormous number of people being positive within just a short duration of time, and most of them are manifesting with upper respiratory tract symptoms, then I would say there is already a community transmission of Omicron variant,” he added.
At the Philippine General Hospital, some 250 of its healthcare workers have contracted COVID-19, PGH spokesperson Jonas Del Rosario said.
“As long as they do not manifest symptoms, they will continue to work. Because we could not quarantine too many employees, doctors, nurses, and support staff as there will be no one left in the hospital,” he said.
“So, our policy right now is unless a frontliner becomes symptomatic, for example, he or she was exposed to someone with COVID but did not show symptoms, he or she will continue to work. Quarantine will not be required. That is the crisis response of PGH at the moment,” Del Rosario added.
Duque on Thursday said interns and health workers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police will be tapped to augment frontliners battling the pandemic.
The President even called on communist rebels who are health workers to come down from the mountains and help, assuring them of safe passage and compensation.
To stem further the soaring cases, the President ordered barangay captains to arrest unvaccinated people who will defy the mobility curbs set under Alert Level 3.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government on Saturday assured community leaders will enforce Duterte’s directive to go after unvaccinated individuals within the bounds of the law.
“The President is merely exercising his authority as chief executive under the public health emergency. He was very clear in his directive that an arrest will only be a last resort. Barangay officials may only arrest the unvaccinated individual who refuse to cooperate and who are leaving the homes for non-essential purposes,” said Interior Secretary Eduardo Año in a statement.
He urged the public to bring vaccination cards and IDs at all times and to show these to barangay officials and police officers as proof
of vaccination upon request.
The Commission on Human Rights, for its part, voiced concern over Duterte’s directive.
“While the 1987 Constitution provides that liberty of movement can be restricted in the interest of national security, public safety, or public health, it still requires a law to make the said restriction legal,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said.
De Guia said that “presently, there is no law that makes being unvaccinated a crime, nor is there any law that would satisfy the
Constitutional provision on curtailing freedom of movement.”