Three more regions were classified at “critical risk” for COVID-19 infections, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said in his report during President Rodrigo Duterte’s Talk to the People late Monday.
Metro Manila, Calabarzon and Central Luzon were now joined by Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, and the Cordillera Autonomous Region at critical risk classification.
Meanwhile, the independent OCTA Research Group said Monday the growth rate of COVID-19 in the National Capital Region has dropped to -4% from -1% and its reproduction rate has decreased to 2.37 from 2.67—but is still at “very high risk.”
This was as the Philippines logged more than 30,000 new COVID-19 cases for the sixth consecutive day amid the surge of cases fueled by the more contagious Omicron coronavirus variant, which the Department of Health has confirmed is now the dominant strain in Metro Manila.
Metro Manila’s average daily attack rate (ADAR) stood at 103.59 from Jan. 4 to 17. Calabarzon had the second-highest ADAR at 36.65. All the other regions, Duque said, are at “high risk.”
The country remained at critical risk, Duque said, with the ADAR nationwide at 24.82 percent during the same period.
Duque, however, said Metro Manila’s hospitalization rate as of Jan. 16 remained at moderate risk—beds utilization at 55.26 percent, mechanical ventilation utilization at 29.83 percent, and ICU utilization at 57.58 percent.
The National Capital Region will remain at Alert Level 3 until the end of the month despite the soaring number of COVID-19 cases because the hospitalization rate did not breach 70 percent.
Duterte, for his part, appealed to Filipinos to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
“What do you want? Let’s just fill up our cemeteries?… Please listen to us and get vaccinated,” the President said.
The trend in virus cases in Metro Manila still needs to be observed for another week or so to determine if it is really declining, OCTA Research fellow Dr. Guido David said.
The group noted that the seven-day COVID-19 moving average for Metro Manila has gone down to negative 1 percent and that the positivity rate also decreased from 54 percent to 15 percent.
David said although Metro Manila was near the peak of its latest surge, other areas in the country may continue to see cases rise.
He pointed out that Metro Manila recorded 13,543 new COVID-19 cases on January 17, 2022, the fewest new cases since January 6 this year.
“NCR is still at very high risk. We need to continue to be vigilant until NCR becomes a moderate risk again,” David said.
Nationwide, the DOH registered 37,070 new infections Monday, bringing the total number of cases to 3,242,374.
The positivity rate was at 46 percent, based on samples from 77,410 people tested on Jan. 15.
COVID-related deaths increased by 23, resulting in a total death toll of 52,929.
There were 33,940 more recoveries, raising the total number of recuperations to 2,898,507.
There were 290,938 active cases, of which 9,187 were asymptomatic; 277,020 were mild; 2,947 were moderate; 1,480 were severe; and 304 were critical.
Nationwide, 49 percent of ICU beds, 47 percent of isolation beds, 50 percent of ward beds, and 22 percent of ventilators, were in use.
In Metro Manila, 58 percent of ICU beds, 48 percent of isolation beds, 62 percent of ward beds, and 30 percent of ventilators, were in use.
Also on Monday, the chief of the Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital and Sanitarium, also known as Tala Hospital in Caloocan City, said 510 of its workers are under home quarantine due to COVID-19.
Tala Hospital medical director Dr. Alfonso Famaran, Jr. said this a day after the Department of Health (DOH) reported 37,154 new COVID-19
cases for Jan. 16, just slightly below the record-high 39,004 new COVID-19 cases recorded on Jan. 15.
“We have 510 health workers under quarantine out of the 1,300 we have,” Famaran said during an online briefing.
Famaran, however, said the DOH and the PNP General Hospital have sent them 229 additional health workers to augment the hospital’s staff amid the surge in COVID-19 cases.
The Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital is a COVID-19 referral hospital and as such, prioritizes COVID-19 cases deemed severe or critical, or those with comorbidities, elderly whether or not with comorbidities, and high-risk pregnant women, as per DOH’s guidelines.
Famaran said the hospital is currently treating 297 COVID-19 cases, which occupy 53 percent of its COVID-19 bed capacity.
“It (getting infected with COVID-19) is really due to non-compliance of minimum public health standards. Mainly [lack of social distancing], and failing to wear a face mask,” Famaran said.
“We really have to strictly follow the minimum public health standards,” he said.
Given the situation, Famaran said that the shortened quarantine period for fully vaccinated health workers infected with or exposed to COVID-19 from zero to five days is a welcome development.