The public breached the minimum health standards during the Holy Week, the Department of Health (DOH) has said, underlining that videos surfaced on social media showing overcrowded beaches and venues where people can be seen partying without masks.
Health Undersecretary Mario Rosario Vergeire said: “There seemed to be breaches in minimum health standards…This is where the virus gets a chance to be transmitted.”
She cited India as an example where hundreds of thousands had gathered during a religious activity last year prior to the Delta variant surge.
Stricter enforcement of protocols is also needed, Vergeire said, citing Boracay, the capacity of which exceeded during the holidays.
“It’s a matter of enforcing also. If only we’ll just follow protocols, we don’t need to be restrictive. Secondly, we enforce, and we closely monitor,” she said.
The DOH earlier released a forecast that the Philippines might tally 500,000 active COVID-19 cases by mid-May should the public remain lax about minimum health protocols.
The forecast is not “cast in stone,” said Vergeire.
“During these past weeks we have observed that there’s complacency in terms of avoiding crowds, physical distancing requirements,” Vergeire said.
“The virus is still here. Although cases continue to decline, there are many new variants or sub-lineages. We just down want the cases to rise again. We don’t want restrictions to return,” she said.
There are 14 areas under Alert Level 1 tha one-week growth rate but the increase in cases is insignificant as of now, Vergeire said. These areas could be found in the Ilocos region, Cordilleras, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Eastern Visayas, Davao region, and Caraga, she added.
But the rise in COVID-19 cases in 14 areas may only be an uptick and does not indicate yet that another surge is forthcoming, OCTA Research fellow Dr. Guido David said Wednesday.
It is important for the public to get vaccinated and get booster shots as immunity against the coronavirus wanes over time, Vergeire reiterated.
Those who traveled during the Holy Week are urged to observe themselves for COVID-19 symptoms for 5 to 7 days, the DOH spokesperson said.
Individuals who crucified and flagellated themselves are urged to go to the nearest health center, get anti-tetanus shots and get their wounds treated, she added.
Meanwhile, the Philippines logged 158 fresh COVID-19 cases Tuesday, the lowest daily tally this year, the Department of Health reported, bringing the country’s case load to 3,683,367.
According to the DOH’s latest data, the active infections dropped to 18,815. The previous lowest active tally recorded was 17,374 last
January 1, 2022.
Among the top regions with cases in the recent two weeks were the National Capital Region with 1,148, followed by Region IV-A with 464 and Region III with 333, the DOH reported.
The DOH said the total recoveries climbed to 3,604,570.
New fatalities, however, brought the nationwide death toll to 59,982, the DOH reported.
The data also showed that at least 5,145 beds were occupied and 27,055 were vacant. The country’s bed occupancy rate stood at 16 percent.
At least 19,730 individuals were tested, with 318 testing laboratories submitting data as of Monday.
Increase in COVID-19 cases in 14 areas not leading to a surge yet—OCTA David, during the Laging Handa press briefing, said that they could not yet distinguish if such an uptick is only just a “statistical noise” or an actual increase as the recorded new COVID-19 cases are still very low.
“It is true that there are increasing cases, but this increase is still at a very low level now. We are not saying that this is forever as it can change, but for now, that is what we see,” he said.
Last Monday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III reported the COVID-19 situation in several areas in light of the Catholic observance of Holy Week, the Muslims’ holy month of Ramadan, and the ongoing election campaign.
However, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that such a report was not a cause for concern as it had no effect on the areas’ hospital utilization and bed utilization rates.
Vergeire said that Region 4B, Region III, Region XI, Caraga, Region 1, Region 2, CAR, and Region 8 only had a slight increase, and their one-week growth rate went positive because some of them had zero cases recently.
In a tweet, David showed that the National Capital Region had the highest average daily attack rate (ADAR)—this pertains to the incidence showing the average number of new cases in a period per 100,000 people—in the country with 0.60 as of Tuesday, April 19.
But he reminded that the 0.60 ADAR was still below 1 and was thus considered as “very low risk.” He noted that the ADAR in the NCR in January this year exceeded 100.
According to OCTA, the areas with the highest ADAR next to NCR were South Cotabato, Bataan, Iloilo, Cavite, Davao de Oro, Davao del Sur, Agusan del Norte, Pampanga, Ilocos Norte, Tarlac, and Zamboanga del Sur.
In related developments, the country’s consul general in the Chinese financial capital said Wednesday. 10 Filipinos had been placed under quarantine in Shanghai, China after testing positive for COVID-19.
“We regret that we have right now 10 of our nationals who have been taken to quarantine, who have tested positive [for COVID-19],” Philippine Consul General to Shanghai Josel Ignacio told ANC’s “Rundown”.
The consulate is in “direct communication” with the patients to address their needs, he added.
Shanghai, a city of 25 million people, is battling China’s worst COVID-19 outbreak since the virus first emerged in late 2019 due to the fast-spreading omicron variant.
The metropolis logged more than 20,000 new and mostly asymptomatic COVID cases Tuesday, defying officials’ efforts to stamp out the infection.
Many of the city’s residents have been confined to their homes since March, with some flooding social media with complaints of food shortages, spartan quarantine conditions, and heavy-handed enforcement.
Chinese officials have scrambled in recent weeks to contain an outbreak spanning multiple regions, largely driven by the omicron variant.
By one estimate on Monday, at least 44 cities are currently under some form of lockdown in China, affecting around 350 million people.