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PH now rated low-risk; WHO remains wary

The Philippines is currently at low risk for COVID-19, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Monday.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, during a press briefing, said all regions in the country are either at moderate-risk or low-risk classification after the nation posted a two-week decline of 48 percent.

The average daily attack rate (ADAR) decreased to 5.89 per 100,000 from the previous 11.41.

Data from the DOH showed that the Philippines has a bed utilization rate of 41.15 percent, a mechanical ventilator utilization rate of 37.65 percent, and an ICU utilization rate of 53.15 percent.

Six regions, however, had a high-risk ADAR: Cagayan Valley with an ADAR of 18.53, Zamboanga Peninsula (8.02), Cordillera Administrative Region (27.30), MIMAROPA (7.09), Ilocos Region (7.18), and National Capital Region (8.56).

Intensive care unit (ICU) utilization rates of Cagayan Valley, Bicol Region, and the Zamboanga Peninsula are at high risk at 88.57 percent, 71.43 percent, and 71.23 percent, respectively.

Vergeire said the NCR recorded an ADAR of 8.56 per 100,000 population from the previous 18.30.

It is currently at moderate-risk classification.

The World Health Organization welcomed the downtrend in COVID cases on Monday but does not see the coronavirus going away any time soon, noting that no one can say when it will disappear.

In Monday’s Laging Handa briefing, Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO representative to the Philippines, urged local government units to prioritize around three million elderly Filipinos who have yet to be vaccinated (see related story – Editors).

Abeyasinghe said LGUs should zero in on those among the priority groups who have yet to receive a single dose against COVID-19 along with the simultaneous vaccination of the general adult population.

He said the WHO recommended an additional dose to immunocompromised people as they are not capable of sustaining the level of immunity to protect themselves against severe COVID-19 cases.

Meanwhile, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Monday said there is a big possibility that the current Alert Level 3 status of the NCR will be downgraded as the average daily attack rate continues to decrease.

Citing DOH data, Roque said the two-week attack rate within Metro Manila is currently at 52 percent, while the average daily attack rate has decreased to 9.87 percent, signaling a possible chance of lowering some restrictions.

The NCR’s current Covid-19 bed utilization rate is now at 39 percent and 48 percent of beds dedicated for intensive care are currently occupied, he added.

“So, there is a huge possibility that we will downgrade the alert level status,” Roque said in Filipino during his press briefing.

After recording a significant drop in COVID-19 infections, the IATF has earlier approved the recommendation to place the NCR under Alert Level 3 from Oct. 16 to 31.

The lowering of restrictions will further allow the reopening of more businesses in the region.

Roque said the final decision on the NCR’s alert level will be tackled during the next IATF meeting on Thursday.

The Philippines logged 4,405 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, bringing the total number of cases to 2,761,307.

There were 149 new fatalities, bringing the COVID-19 death toll to 41,942.

The DOH also reported 7,561 new recoveries, bringing the total recoveries to 2,661,602.

There were 57,763 active cases, the lowest count since the 56,273 tally on July 29.

Of the active cases, 76.2 percent were mild, 6.5 percent were asymptomatic, 2.3 percent were critical, 5.3 percent were severe, and 9.72 percent were moderate.

The positivity rate was at 9 percent, based on samples of 47,731 people screened on Oct. 23.

Nationwide, 52 percent of ICU beds, 40 percent of isolation beds, 37 percent of ward beds, and 36 percent of ventilators, were in use.

In Metro Manila, 46 percent of ICU beds, 35 percent of isolation beds, 33 percent of ward beds, and 32 percent of ventilators, were in use.

The Philippines last week reported 5,251 average daily infections versus 5,399 average cases from July 23 to 29, prior to the recent COVID-19 surge, Vergeire said.

Some 25.7 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated against the respiratory illness, while 30 million have received their first dose as of Sunday, according to the National Task Force Against COVID-19.

In another sign that the pandemic was easing, the COVID-19 referral system is now getting fewer calls for help in securing hospital admission as coronavirus cases in the country have fallen during the past week.

Dr. Bernadette Velasco, operations manager of One Hospital Command Center, said they were receiving between 150 and 200 calls for help daily. The system was receiving 600 to 700 calls daily amid surging infections in August.

Velasco said many calls remain requests for hospital admission, meaning patients are suffering from moderate to critical symptoms of COVID-19.

The DOH COVID-19 Tracker as of Oct. 23 indicated that the bed occupancy rate in Metro Manila was at 36 percent.

This means 3,770 beds dedicated for COVID-19 patients were occupied while 6,709 others remain vacant.

Most hospitals or 131 were considered “safe” or less than 60 percent occupied, 13 were “moderate” or 60 to 70 percent occupied, five were “high risk” or 70 to 85 percent occupied and seven were “critical” or more than 85 percent occupied.

The DOH said 380 more cases of the highly contagious Delta variant were detected Monday.

Vergeire said the latest run sequenced 746 samples collected in March, April, September, and October.

Of these, 380 or half tested positive for the Delta variant, 166 tested positive for the Beta variant, 104 tested positive for the Alpha variant, and one case tested positive for the B.1.1.318 variant, Vergeire said.

Vergeire also toned down vaccine czar Carlito Galvez’s statement that the Philippines has defeated the Delta variant, saying it should be put in context.

Vergeire said she believed that Galvez was saying that the Philippines was expecting to be overwhelmed by the Delta variant when it was first detected in the country.

“But we did not reach the projected number of cases, our health systems were not overwhelmed. Although we had difficulty… we were able to reduce the number of cases in one and a half months,” she said in Filipino.

“So, I think that was the context. We’re not saying that we’ve defeated Delta because it is still here.” 

Topics: COVID-19 , Department of Health , Maria Rosario Vergeire , low risk
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