MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health on Saturday clarified its classification of the national COVID-19 situation as "low risk," emphasizing that it remains "fragile" and that the public must continue to carefully abide by pandemic protocols.
On Thursday, Dr. Alethea De Guzman, the officer in charge of the DOH Epidemiology Bureau, said the Philippines is now a “low-risk” area after the growth rate of the virus and the average daily attack rate declined.
But OCTA Research group contested the tag, with one of its fellows Guido David telling the Inquirer that the average daily attack rate (ADAR) should be below 1, significantly lower than the 5.42 ADAR cited by De Guzman, to be considered as "low risk." ADAR is the number of cases in an area over a two-week period, divided by the population there.
"First of all, we want to clarify that we are not saying or declaring that we are already low-risk," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told state-run media in an interview conducted in Filipino when asked about DOH's conflicting assessment with OCTA.
"This is something that was just said that this is the factual figure that we are at that low-risk because of our parameters," she said. "But as we have said, we continue to remind the public that what OCTA is saying is correct: that our situation is very fragile at this point."
"The national picture yes would show us that we are at low risk based on the two-week growth rate and the average daily attack rate," she added, "but if we look at every region in our country we can see that there are regions with increases in cases."
Given this, Vergeire said that while numbers indicate that the situation is being managed, "this low-risk classification should not really be advertised or the public should not be encouraged to be complacent."
Coronavirus cases in the Philippines on Saturday breached 1.43 million while deaths exceeded 25,000. It has been 475 days since parts of the country were first placed under community quarantine.