Not 2nd wave: Rise of COVID cases in NCR a ‘spike’ in ongoing wave, says WHO

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 09 2021 01:55 PM | Updated as of Mar 09 2021 05:24 PM

Not 2nd wave: Rise of COVID cases in NCR a ‘spike’ in ongoing wave, says WHO 1
Residents observe quarantine rules as Barangay178, Zone 19, Pasay City is placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). The city government imposed extended localized community quarantine, 14 days from February 22, in more than 30 barangays after the city recorded a 200 percent spike in new coronavirus infections. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The World Health Organization on Tuesday said it considers the ongoing increase in COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, specifically in the National Capital Region, a “spike” in the current epidemic wave. 

“I wouldn’t classify this as a second wave because if you're talking of a second wave we should have seen a complete flattening of the curve. And in the case of NCR (National Capital Region), we didn't see that kind of flattening,” said WHO Country Representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe during a briefing with the Department of Health.

“We always knew that there was quite a big chain of transmission although the numbers went down at some stage to 300-400 on a daily basis. That still reflected significant levels of transmission in the community so it would rather be another spike in the ongoing wave. There's actually no value in classifying it as a second wave,” he added.

The WHO official said they have been seeing “community level transmission” of the COVID-19 virus in NCR, Region 3 and Region 4A for “several months” already.

He pointed out that the 3,000 cases being recorded daily is “significantly lower” than the 6,000 plus at the height of the transmission last year.

He added that the increase in transmission means everyone must "strengthen the protocols on the ground.” 

He said WHO was already coordinating with the Department of Health and the local government units about protocols on early detection, quarantine, isolation, and management of patients.

“We really want the local leadership to lead in this effort, so that we can ensure that we don't have to go back to a situation that we had last July, August, when we have to go to more larger level lockdowns, and quarantining of populations,” he said.

Abeyasinghe emphasized the need for solidarity and coordination, especially since NCR has 17 different cities with different implementations of protocols and different levels of compliance.

He said they are still looking into whether the clusters in NCR’s cities are limited to the localities or if it is affected by the way people travel between the cities for work.

Abeyasinghe said it is also important to remind the public to comply with health requirements such as wearing of face masks and physical distancing.

He also said the protocols are important, regardless of the presence of new variants.

Abeyasinghe said that while the more transmissible variants, first identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa, have been detected in the Philippines, these are small in proportion to the actual number of cases.

“Part of the surge we are seeing within NCR may be attributed to the presence of these new variants. But we believe that it's not entirely being driven by the new variants because the number of cases detected and confirmed as opposed to the number of samples checked is limited,” he said.

Abeyasinghe said both UK and South African variants are associated with higher transmissibility. Reports from countries with the variants explain that the variants cause a higher viral load in the respiratory tract of people infected with the virus “so it’s easily transmitted.”

“This may be what we are seeing also here in Manila where we are getting reports from city health divisions, units in Pasay and in other cities affected. That where the new variants have been confirmed, they're seeing, not individual cases in households, but practically everybody in the household being infected,” he said. 

He said WHO is still studying the new variants to understand them better and how they affect the spread of the disease. He said the increased transmissibility and possible increased severity of the disease linked to the variants “are yet not confirmed by WHO.”

Nevertheless, the international body is urging extra caution since the reports are coming from countries where the variants were originally detected.

Video courtesy of the Department of Health