Philippines not out of woods despite low COVID-19 risk

Philstar

July 2, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — While the country is now under low-risk classification for COVID-19 cases, it is still far from reaching pre-surge levels seen before April, the Department of Health (DOH) said Thursday night.

In an interview with “The Chiefs” on Cignal TV’s One News, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire noted that the country was recording an average of 2,000 cases per day in December 2020 and January 2021.

“Our average now is around 5,000 cases per day nationally. I cannot yet say that we are already at the pre-surge level in April. We cannot compare those months and now,” she said.

According to Vergeire, the country is now considered at low risk for COVID-19 nationally based on various metrics identified by the government.

These metrics include the average daily attack rate (ADAR), two-week growth rate and health care utilization rate.

However, she underscored the need to “disaggregate according to areas” when doing risk classification.

“Areas have levels of increase (in COVID-19 cases) that are different from the national. But if you look at the national, we are really low risk,” Vergeire maintained.

Last Thursday, the DOH announced the Philippines’ eased classification as data indicated a slowdown in infections.

Data show that from June 24 to June 30, the national ADAR was 5,772, about half of the peak 10,845 ADAR recorded in April.

Slight uptick

Metro Manila has recorded a slight uptick in new COVID-19 cases in the past week, OCTA Research said on Friday.

But OCTA fellow Guido David said the uptick may just be temporary and that “the trend will likely move downward again next week.”

In its latest report, OCTA said Metro Manila had an average of 686 new cases per day from June 25 to July 1, five percent higher than the average of 654 in the preceding week.

Eight local government units (LGUs) in the region recorded an increase in average daily new cases, with Makati logging the largest jump from 44 to 75 new cases per day last week.

Other LGUs that recorded an increase in average daily new cases include Manila (from 73 to 81), Las Piñas (40 to 50), Parañaque (39 to 44), Muntinlupa (30 to 31), Mandaluyong (18 to 22), San Juan (7 to 12) and Navotas (4 to 6).

Makati also had the highest incidence rate of 12 new cases per 100,000 individuals, above the high-risk threshold of 10 cases per 100,000 population.

Other LGUs were classified as either low or moderate risk.

Navotas, which recorded the lowest number of average new cases per day last week, also had the lowest incidence rate of 2.25.

In an interview with “The Chiefs” on One News last Tuesday, David said Metro Manila has almost reached a similar level before the surge earlier this year.

But he said the government and the general public should remain vigilant to ensure that the more infectious Delta variant would not spread in communities and trigger another surge.

“We’re almost there. We could be one to two weeks away from reaching pre-surge levels if our downward trend continues,” he said. “But if the Delta variant enters, then this will be the game changer… This is our biggest threat right now.”

33 M register for jabs

Over 33 million Filipinos have registered to get vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

The DILG said 33.349 million Filipinos have signed up for vaccination with their respective local government units nationwide.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said this uptrend in vaccination registration shows that vaccine hesitancy among the public is continuously decreasing in the country.

He lauded LGUs for their innovative solutions to incentivize vaccination among their constituents, which include raffling off cows, motorcycles, even a house and lot.

“Only through vaccination will we reach that certain level of population protection that will allow us to transition into the new normal and completely recover from the pandemic,” Año said.

Some LGUs are also providing other avenues for speedy vaccination, such as night-long, drive-thru or house-to-house vaccinations, free rides to sites and free meals and snacks.

LGUs are also providing cash incentives to senior citizens.

Año also commended private sector efforts to help augment the national vaccination program,

Some 200 private establishments will give discounts and freebies to those who have received their COVID-19 jabs under the Task Force T3’s (test, trace and treat) Smart Bakuna Benefits program.

Meanwhile, approximately one million AstraZeneca vaccines donated by the Japanese government will arrive in the country early this month, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Friday.

“The donation is a testament to the strong bilateral relationship between the Philippines and Japan, which encompasses a broad spectrum of engagements including this health cooperation initiative,” the DFA said.

“This commitment comes alongside high-level exchanges, the most recent of which was a phone call between President Duterte and Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide last May 19 when both leaders expressed solidarity in combatting the pandemic,” it said. – Janvic Mateo, Romina Cabrera, Helen Flores

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