DOH: Spike in COVID-19 cases due to breach of health protocol, variants just a factor

Angela Coloma, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 06 2021 02:54 PM

Police officers flash signages with safety reminders along a crowded Ylaya Street in the shopping district of Divisoria, Manila on December 3, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Department of Health (DOH) is attributing the recent spike in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the country to people's failure to comply with minimum health standards that seek to prevent infection.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said this in a public press briefing Saturday, adding that the presence of more transmissible coronavirus variants in the country were just "aggravating factors" in the rising number of cases. 

"Kailangan natin baguhin ang pananaw ng ating mga kababayan. Oo may variants na na-detect pero ang kailangan natin isipin is we did not comply to the health protocols. So kung nakikita natin na tuloy-tuloy ang non-compliance, definitely tataas ang mga kaso. And the variants are just aggravating factors," Vergeire said. 

(We need to change public perception about this. Yes, we have detected variants but we need to also see that we did not comply with health protocols. So if we see continuous violations of health guidance, definitely, the cases will rise. And the variants are just aggravating factors.)

Video courtesy of PTV

The Philippines has been enforcing a nearly yearlong quarantine, with face masks, face shields and physical distancing required in public places. Mass gatherings are still prohibited, but restrictions have been loosened to revive the economy. 

On Friday, health authorities detected 52 cases of the South African variant, bringing the caseload to 58 after recording the first 6 cases earlier in the week. There are also a total of 118 cases of the United Kingdom variant, while the country has also tallied 42 COVID-19 positive patients with mutations of "potential clinical significance." 

Among the newly-tallied cases of the South African or B.1.351 variant, 41 were detected in Metro Manila. 

Also on Friday, the Philippines recorded the highest single-day tally of cases since October, with 3,045 additional cases. OCTA research on Saturday noted a "very quick" surge in the capital region within a short period, accounting for an average of 900 cases per day from February 26 to March 4.

Some hospitals have also noted more patients coming in, but Vergeire said "nothing is controllable," saying they have prepared hospitals for an expected surge as early as November. 

"We are managing actually, na talagang pinataas ang number of beds, pinrepare natin ang ospital kaya kung makikita mo sa health care utilization hindi tayo tumataas, na we could accommodate," Vergeire added. 

(We prepared our hospitals, added number of beds, that's why you see us having steady health care utilization rates.) 

Vergeire said localized response in cities and towns may do for now, but later on said that they will not discount recommending more stringent measures later on, such as returning to the stricter enhanced community quarantine. 

"Atin hong binabantayan ang ating sitwasyon. Hindi natin masasabi na we can assure you na walang mangyayaring ECQ 'pag dumating sa punto na talagang kailangan muna nating isara ang ating siyudad, dahil po dito sa nangyayari. Gagawin po 'yan as an additional measure pero kailangan maintindihan na itong desisyon hindi mangyari kung lahat tayo ay tutulong sa gobyerno by complying with the minimum standards we have," Vergeire said.

(We are monitoring our situation. We can't assure the public that we will not have another enhanced community quarantine when we reach a point that we will need to close cities and regions because of the situation. We will just do this as an additional measure. But this situation will not happen if we help the government and comply with the minimum standards we have.) 

The DOH said it was meeting with local executives in the capital region, declared earlier by experts as the epicenter of the COVID-19 virus in the country, to discuss possible protocols that could be enforced.