Philippines at high risk from COVID-19, says DOH’s Duque

Mico Abarro, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 05 2022 12:54 AM

MANILA—Health Sec. Francisco Duque III said on Tuesday night that the Philippines was at high risk from COVID-19 amid a surge in infections. 

During President Rodrigo Duterte's "Talk to the People" public briefing, Duque said the country had a 448% 2-week growth rate in COVID-19 cases. The average daily attack rate (ADAR), meanwhile, was at 1.66. 

The country's previous two-week growth rate was minus 49%, while its ADAR was at 0.30. 

Duque added that between December 29, 2021 to January 4, the Philippines reported a daily average of 3,313 COVID-19 infections. He said this was 849% higher than the 349 average daily cases reported between December 22 to December 28. 

"Malaki pong bahagi ay nasa NCR," he said. "Almost 70% ng mga kaso ay galing po sa NCR. So makikita niyo po ang ating uptick ng mga cases."

(A big portion of the cases come from the National Capital Region. Almost 70% come from the NCR. So you will really see the uptick in our cases.) 

The NCR was tagged with a critical risk classification for having a 2-week growth rate of 1,475 percent and an ADAR of 8.79. Following this was Region 4A (557% 2-week growth rate; 1.60 ADAR), and Region 3 (339% 2-week growth rate; 0.91 ADAR). 

The utilization of hospital facilities in the country was also on the rise, with the bed utilization rate as of January 3 at 24 percent or 6 points higher than the 18 percent reported on December 27. 

The intensive care unit utilization rate, meanwhile, was at 26% or an increase of 8 points, while mechanical ventilator usage was at 14% up by 4 points. 

However, despite the rise in infections, Duque said that deaths due to COVID-19 were still falling in the country. 

"Ang atin pong death curve naman ay nanatiling bumababa," he said. "Isa itong patunay na epektibo po talaga ang atin pong vaccination program laban sa COVID." 

(Our death curve is still falling. This is proof that our vaccination program against COVID has been effective.) 

So far, the Philippines has administered 109,309,588 COVID-19 vaccine doses as of January 3, while 61,151,369 people received their first doses, and 50,159,858 were fully vaccinated. About 1,968,913 have received booster doses. 

Metro Manila, Bulacan, Rizal, and Cavite are already under COVID-19 Alert Level 3 until January 15 amid soaring numbers of cases. 

To prevent more infections, Duque called for the suspension of mass gatherings such as the traditional January 9 Traslacion on the feast of the Black Nazarene.

Epidemiologist John Wong added that to address the COVID surge the government must prioritize vaccinating the unvaccinated, especially the elderly. More Filipinos should also be convinced of the benefits of vaccines to boost inoculations.

"Vaccinating somebody who is vaccinated is (5) times more effective than adding a booster to someone who is already vaccinated," he said. 

Wong added that widespread use of antigen tests were also necessary, along with encouraging mild cases to get themselves treated at home to prevent the clogging of hospitals 

"The rapid rise in cases looks like the signature of omicron," he said. "Omicron doubles every two days and this is what's happening." 

According to Wong, COVID-19 spread quickly due to more Filipinos traveling to celebrate with people outside of their households during the holiday season, as well as infections imported from outside the country. 

This was on top of reports of loose quarantines where people did not complete their 14-day isolations or went out to buy necessities despite it.