Police were ordered to crack down on quarantine violators Monday to ensure that minimum health protocols are observed amid a spike in COVID-19 cases.
The order from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) came as the country logged more than 3,000 new COVID-19 cases Monday, the fourth straight it has done so.
In a statement, DILG officer-in-charge Bernardo C. Florece, Jr said he has ordered Joint Task Force Shield Commander Police Lt. Gen. Cesar Hawthorne Binag to increase police deployment and strictly enforce minimum public health standards in Pasay, Malabon, Navotas, Cebu City, and Cebu province, areas where the surge is most pronounced.
He said the local government units and police have become complacent and needed to ensure that people wear face masks and face shields, keep their distance, undergo temperature checks and fill out contact tracing forms.
Local governments must impose sanctions on violators, he said.
The Philippines logged 3,356 new COVID-19 cases Monday, as six laboratories were unable to submit their data on time, the Department of Health (DOH) said.
The DOH reported five new fatalities, bringing the death toll from COVID-19 to 12,521, which 2.09 percent of the total cases.
The DOH also reported that 61 patients recovered, bringing the total number of recoveries to 545,912, which is 91.3 percent of the total cases.
That left 39,330 active cases, which is 6.6 percent of the total number of cases. Of the active cases, 91.2 percent are mild; 4 percent are asymptomatic; 2 percent are critical; 2 percent are severe; and 0.83 percent are moderate.
Amid suggestions that the surge in new cases was due to the spread of more transmissible variants of the coronavirus, lapses in compliance with safety protocols contributed to the spike.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said there is no evidence yet of community transmission of the United Kingdom and South Africa variants in the Philippines.
“Whatever increase in the number of cases that we are having right now cannot be attributed solely to the variants. The underlying cause why cases are increasing [is] the non-compliance to the health protocols that we have,” Vergeire said in an online briefing.
“As long as our public would not be able to comply with the minimum health protocols that are there, there is possibility that cases will increase,” she said. “Now that the new variants are here, that has aggravated the increase in cases.”
Vergeire said an epidemiological investigation is currently being undertaken in coordination with the World Health Organization (WHO) with regard to the new variants.
The country has so far recorded 58 South Africa variant cases, 118 UK variant cases and 85 mutations of concern.
Experts from the OCTA Research group earlier said the presence of the coronavirus variants might have caused the spike in COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila.
The DOH urged local governments to intensify measures to curb the spread of the disease.
The OCTA Research Team said it expected Metro Manila to record 2,400 new cases per day by March 26, given the increased mobility and easing of restrictions.
OCTA Research fellow Guido David, in anl article released Sunday, said that Metro Manila could see a repeat of a surge in infections as seen in December should restrictions be eased further.
"Under the current trends, NCR is projected to have around 2,400 new cases per day by March 26, which also matches the projections made on Feb. 17," he said.
According to the Feb. 17 projections of the OCTA Group, Metro Manila will constantly be under threat of a surge due to the increased mobility of people should restrictions be eased to "very loose levels."
Metro Manila is currently under the general community quarantine (GCQ), after President Rodrigo Duterte last month rejected the proposal of mayors in the area to shift to a looser modified general community quarantine (MGCQ).
The OCTA said the Philippines is projected to have 5,000 to 6,000 new cases per day by the end of March given the arrival of new and more contagious and lethal variants.
Researchers from the group have since called for more contact tracing and isolation especially in high-risk areas, along with more effective localized lockdowns and stricter border controls.
Senator Juan Edgardo Angara described as alarming the increasing number of the COVID-19 cases during the last few days and said people need to take extra precautions once again as many have let their guard down.
“We have to go back to observing social distancing as these new variants are reportedly more infectious and require less contact time than previous variants for one to contract the new variant,” Angara said.
Senator Panfilo Lacson shared Angara’s sentiments and said health officials should be concerned by the spike.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said there was a need for stricter implementation of health protocols.
“We have become too complacent,” he said.
Senator Christopher Go reminded the public to observe measures to prevent the spread of the disease.Despite the arrival of vaccines, he emphasized the need to still strictly follow health protocols, such as wearing masks and face shields, observing social distancing, and avoiding non-essential travel.
House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco on Monday urged Filipinos to remain
vigilant and continue all public health precautions until the country
has been broadly immunized against the deadly disease.
“While we understand that more businesses are reopening and people want to resume normal activities, we have to maintain our health protocols until the COVID-19 threat is effectively addressed by our vaccination program,” Velasco said.