All regions in the country continue to see an increase in COVID-19 infections, with 88% of provinces, highly urbanized cities, and independent charter cities showing positive growth rates, the Department of Health (DOH) said Friday.
Based on its regular COVID-19 situationer, most areas are showing a sharp increase in cases, with the National Capital Region reaching almost 450 cases daily.
The DOH has flagged 89 areas for case increases, of which 57 have shown positive one-week and two-week growth rates and 32 with either a positive one or two-week growth rate.
Lucena City, Bohol, and Tawi-Tawi have also logged a moderate to critical risk ICU bed utilization rate.
On a national scale, however, ICU utilization remains low risk with a 15% occupancy rate.
Despite the increasing infections, all regions remain under low-risk case classification. This is even if all regions have seen positive two-week growth rates, with some reaching over 200%.
The COVID-19 positivity rate continues to go up in the National Capital Region (NCR), as well as nine other areas, with Cavite registering the highest increase, according to independent monitoring group OCTA Research on Friday.
The Philippines on Thursday logged some 1,309 new COVID-19 infections, the highest daily tally since February 25 when 1,671 COVID-19 new cases were reported.
This moved the chief of the government’s Vaccine Expert Panel (VEP) to say Friday she supports administering mRNA COVID-19 vaccines to children aged 5 and younger.
The DOH has also asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to expand the inoculation of the second booster dose to seafarers and overseas Filipino workers, the VEP added.
While a slight rise in cases was observed in Mindanao in mid-June, it is now showing signs of plateauing with 50 cases recorded per day.
The rising growth rates, however, have no effect on decisions made by the Inter-Agency Task Force as to what a region’s alert level may be.
Recently, the IATF decided to heed the recommendations of experts to remove the two-week growth rate as an indicator to determine a region’s risk classification and subsequent alert level.
Former Health Secretary Francisco Duque even said the two-week growth rate has lost its significance and relevance and may in fact just be an “alarmist” metric.
In a message to reporters, DOH spokesperson and National Vaccination Operations Center chair Maria Rosario Vergeire explained the two-week growth rate (TWGR) represents the speed of case increase or decrease.
This was also how health authorities monitored the speed of infections during the Delta and Omicron surges.
“However, with very low case numbers observed over the past months, we noted that the TWGR was not a suitable metric in classifying areas’ alert levels. Given the very small cases reported, minimal increases in the number of new cases may translate to very high TWGRs,” she said.
The two-week growth rate, according to Vergeire is still used, but only internally.
“Given that there is the risk of new variants emerging that are more transmissible or immune escaping, we utilize TWGRs as part of our internal monitoring for earlier detection of sudden and large increases that may signal the entry or impact of these emerging variants.”
The agency continues to note a decline in fatalities from the peak of the Omicron-driven surge in January with an average of one death per day in May 2022.