Metro Manila will remain under Alert Level 1 from July 1 to 15, despite the rise of COVID-19 cases, the Palace said Tuesday.
Acting presidential spokesperson Martin Andanar said the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) issued the new alert level even after the Department of Health (DOH) predicted that new cases would go up to 4,600 daily in the National Capital Region by mid-July due to increase mobility and declining compliance with minimum public health standards.
Andanar said that the IATF also approved the new alert level classifications elsewhere in the country.
He said the IATF revised the matrices to be used for the Alert Level System, removing the two-week growth rate in determining case-risk classification, and using instead the average daily attack rates and current thresholds.
Under Alert Level 1, travel is allowed without regard to age and comorbidities.
Under Alert Level 2 from July 1 to 15 are:
Cordillera Administrative Region – Benguet and Ifugao
Region IV-A – Quezon Province
Region IV-B – Occidental Mindoro and Palawan
Region V – Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, and Masbate
Region VI – Antique and Negros Occidental
Region VII – Bohol, Cebu, and Negros Oriental
Region VIII – Leyte, Northern Samar, and Samar (Western Samar)
Region IX – City of Isabela, Zamboanga Del Norte, Zamboanga Del Sur, and Zamboanga Sibugay
Region X – Lanao Del Norte
Region XI – Davao De Oro, Davao Del Norte, Davao Del Sur, and Davao Occidental
Region XII – Cotabato (North Cotabato), General Santos City (Dadiangas), Sarangani, and Sultan Kudarat
Caraga – Dinagat Islands and Surigao Del Norte Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao – Basilan, Lanao Del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the country’s observance of public health standards has gone down by 21 percent as COVID-19 infections continue to rise.
Vergeire said, based on new projections, the National Capital Region’s (NCR) COVID-19 cases may go up to as high as 4,600 per day by the middle of July, due to the declining compliance with health protocols and the increased mobility of people.
“Currently, our decline in the compliance with health protocols is at 21 percent. If this happens, we are seeing that by the middle of July, our daily cases in the NCR may increase from 3,800 to 4,600,” she said in Filipino in a radio interview.
The whole country may see the cases escalate up to 5,300 per day during the same period based on the same factors, Vergeire said.
The COVID-19 positivity rate in the NCR climbed to 5.9 percent on June 25 from 3.9 percent on June 18, the independent OCTA Research Group said Monday.
The positivity rate refers to the percentage of people who were found positive for COVID-19 among the total number of individuals tested.
Vergeire said, despite this, severe and critical COVID-19 cases have not yet significantly increased, and the health care utilization in the country, which is below 20 percent, is still manageable.
Based on the Department of Health’s (DOH) Monday report, 391 or 14.9 percent out of the 2,628 intensive care unit (ICU) beds were occupied.
Meanwhile, 4,034 or 18.1 percent of the 22,251 non-ICU COVID-19 beds were in use.
Vergeire said they will be recommending to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) a new set of metrics for determining the risk case classification of an area, as some indicators may not already be relevant in the current COVID-19 situation.
This came after DOH on Saturday declared that Pasig, San Juan, Quezon City, Marikina, and Pateros are now under moderate risk following the continued rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in those areas.
The DOH said an area will be classified as moderate risk based on its hospital utilization, and if it has a positive two-week growth rate and average daily attack rate of at least six average cases per day per 100,000 population.
“What we are really monitoring now are the hospitals, thus this two-week growth rate is becoming a bit insignificant. Last night, we spoke to the IATF and we will be recommending another set of metrics to be more sensitive to the subvariants we face today,” she said.
Vergeire also said the DOH has already asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to study the possible expansion of the administration of the second booster dose to adults ages 50 to 59.
At least 14.9 million people have received their booster shots.
Around 70.3 million or 78.17 percent of the government’s target population are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Vergeire said the country’s COVID-19 positivity rate of 4.1 percent was still within the 5 percent benchmark of the World Health Organization.
That means the country remains under a low risk classification with an attack rate of less than 1 per 100,000 population.
However, she said cases continue to increase with the country recording 710 new cases daily, higher by 257 cases compared to last week.
Vergeire said the country logged 4,976 new cases from June 21 to June 27.
Vergeire said the National Capital Region (NCR) showed a “steep increase” in new COVID-19 cases in the past week.
The NCR has an average of 350 cases per day.
A total of 14 areas in Metro Manila saw increases in their COVID-19 cases, raising a positivity rate above the threshold recommended by the WHO, OCTA said Tuesday.
The Ncr tallied an average of 342 cases in the past seven days, said OCTA fellow Guido David.
It is expected to rise between 400 and 500 this week, David said.
The increase in cases has pulled up Metro Manila’s positivity rate to 6 percent, above the WHO benchmark, David said.
The WHO earlier said a positivity of less than 5 percent for at least two weeks shows an epidemic is “controlled.”
Also on Tuesday, the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines Inc. (PHAPI) said the real number of people with COVID-19 in the country may be double what is being reported.
PHAPI president Dr. Jose de Grano said that this may be due to the lack of COVID-19 testing, and many people treating the viral disease as a regular flu.
“The real number of cases is probably double than the figures we are presenting right now because a lot of people really do not get tested and some get tested by using the rapid antigen that is not reported.
So it could be higher than what is reported right now,” De Grano said in an interview with ANC.
Despite the increase in cases, De Grano said the hospital utilization rate in the country remains manageable, and many cases are either mild or asymptomatic.
The Philippines has detected at least 63 additional cases of the highly transmissible Omicron subvariants BA.4, BA.5, and BA2.12.1, the DOH said Tuesday.
The number includes 50 cases of BA.5, raising its total to 93 nationwide, Vergeire said.
Vergeire said 38 of the individuals were from Western Visayas, five were from Metro Manila, and seven were returning overseas Filipinos.