MANILA — The Philippines is "nearing" its peak increase of COVID-19 infections that it recorded in August last year, Malacañang said on Tuesday.
President Rodrigo Duterte in August 2020 heeded the call of health workers for a 2-week return of Metro Manila to the second strictest lockdown level, as coronavirus patients swamped hospitals.
"Itong spike po talaga ay nangyayari ngayon. We are nearing the peak that we saw last August," said Palace spokesman Harry Roque.
"Pupuwede pong lumampas pa tayo sa peak natin noong August kung hindi natin mapapababa ang mga kaso ng COVID-19," he said in a press briefing.
(A spike is happening now. We are nearing the peak that we saw last August. We can even exceed this peak if we fail to bring down COVID-19 cases.)
The Philippines over the weekend recorded nearly 10,000 new COVID-19 cases. On Monday, the health ministry confirmed the country's 4th highest daily COVID-19 case increase since the pandemic started. This pushed the total tally of infections to 626,893.
Independent research group OCTA said the Philippines could record up to 11,000 new coronavirus cases daily if the current trend continues.
The inter-agency task force leading the country's COVID-19 response has ordered the public to be more mindful of health protocols, establishments to improve ventilation, and local governments to intensify house-to-house search for contacts of coronavirus patients, said Roque.
"Mapapababa po natin ang numerong iyan dahil alam po natin sa nakalipas na taon, importante po na pag-ingatan ang ating buhay para tayo po'y makapag-hanapbuhay," he said.
"Napakahirap pong muli kung tayo po'y magsasara ng ekonomiya at mawawalan ng hanapbuhay ang napakarami nating mga kababayan."
(We can bring those numbers down because in the past year, we've learned that it is important to take care of our life so we can earn a living. It's very difficult if we close the economy again and so many would lose their jobs.)
Roque added that while 8 of the 17 Philippine regions have tallied a steady increase of health care utilization rates since February 11, none has reached the moderate-risk level.
To battle the COVID-19 surge, Metro Manila has banned minors from going out of their homes from Wednesday. Nighttime curfews have been reimposed since Monday for two weeks in the region, the country's coronavirus hotspot that is home to more than 12 million people.
The extended age limit comes 5 months after authorities allowed people from 15 to 65 years of age to go out as part of efforts to revive an economy that suffered the worst slump on record last year.
Facing criticism about a slow-moving vaccination drive, coronavirus strategy chief Carlito Galvez said more doses should arrive soon.
Galvez said there was no plan to halt the use of AstraZeneca's vaccine to inoculate health care workers, even as several European countries have paused administering it after reports of possible serious side-effects.
The government has also signed an agreement with the Serum Institute of India for 30 million Novavax vaccine doses, due to arrive in the third or fourth quarter of the year, said Galvez.