MANILA (UPDATE) — Metro Manila remains at “high risk” due to the continued increase in COVID-19 cases, the Department of Health said Wednesday, as it noted that the capital region will not see the effect of the recently-added restrictions until 2 to 3 weeks later.
“Our cases are still increasing at a fast rate. And yung nakita nga po natin last week, yung peak natin nitong linggo ay humigit na nga po doon sa peak na nakita natin last first week of August of 2020,” Dr. Alethea de Guzman, OIC Director III of the DOH Epidemiology Bureau, said during a virtual briefing.
(Our cases are still increasing at a fast rate. And as we saw, our peak last and this week already surpassed the first week of August 2020.)
Last year, the Philippines saw a surge in COVID-19 cases in July and August, but the record-high new cases were detected on March 22 at 8,019. The country logged 3 record-high numbers during the past several days.
“Kung titignan natin ang risk classification ng bawat rehiyon, base sa bilis ng pagtaas ng kaso nila at laki ng population nila na affected, nasa high-risk na po ang NCR,” De Guzman said.
(If we look at the risk classification of each region, based on the increase in their cases and how much of their population is affected, the National Capital Region is already at high risk.)
Data shared by the health official showed that NCR has the highest average daily attack rate (ADAR) for every 100,000 population.
The ADAR was at 14.90 for the last 2 weeks compared to the 6.29 from February 21 to March 6. The second highest ADAR is in the Cordillera Administrative Region, at 6.68. The attack rate is the proportion of the population infected by COVID-19.
Based on the date of onset of symptoms, most of the new cases are coming from NCR and Region 4A.
De Guzman said it helps that the regional health care utilization rate is still within the “safe zone,” which means there are facilities that can help serve as a buffer for hospitals that are already full.
Due to the continuous increase in cases the past weeks, the government has implemented added restrictions for the so-called NCR Plus bubble, which includes Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal.
But De Guzman said it will take up to 3 weeks to see if the new measures are effective to lower the number of COVID-19 cases in the region.
“We need 2 to 3 weeks before we see ano ang laki o ano ang epekto ng ginagawa natin ngayon na (how big or what is the effect of the) NCR bubble,” she said.
De Guzman reiterated that it takes about 14 days for the COVID-19 virus to incubate.
Responding to criticism that the government is only using “bandaid solutions” to address the surge in COVID-19 cases, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said it is true, but only to address immediate concerns.
“Pero hindi naman bandaid lang ang ginagawa natin (But we’re not just doing bandaid solutions),” she said. “We have been trying to improve facilities.”
Vergeire said they are also coordinating with local government units and the private sector.
“Ito pong ginagawa natin ngayon ay isang stop gap measure. Wag po nating tawaging bandaid,” she said, referring to the added restrictions for NCR and nearby provinces that are still under the general community quarantine. “Para lang maputol natin ang transmission and we can very well implement the longer-term measures.”
(What we are doing now is a stop gap measure. Let us not call it bandaid…Just so we can stop the transmission and we can very well implement the longer-term measures.)
However, Vergeire warned that if the current arrangement does not result in lower number of cases after the next 2 weeks, the government might have to implement stricter measures.
As of Wednesday, Philippines has recorded a total of 677,653 COVID-19 cases, 86,200 of which are active cases.
Of the total, less than 500 have variants of concern that are said to be more transmissible.
The DOH previously said that while the UK and South African variants may contribute to to the increase in cases, the main cause for the spread of the virus is still non-compliance with minimum health standards.