Uptick in COVID-19 cases in Manila noted; expert warns of possible effect of new subvariant

Jose Carretero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 16 2023 05:58 PM

People visit the Tutuban Night Market in Manila on November 16, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News
People visit the Tutuban Night Market in Manila on November 16, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA -- Manila City Mayor Honey Lacuna on Sunday confirmed that a slight increase of COVID-19 cases has been observed last week in the city.

A total of 79 positive cases were recorded, according to Lacuna. Most of the positive cases were of mild symptoms and asymptomatic.

Three of them are in the hospital.

Lacuna says the number is not yet alarming, but nonetheless, the City Health Department is now strictly monitoring the cases.

Should there be a surge in COVID-19 cases, Lacuna said the city would again make wearing of face masks mandatory.

“We might, in the coming weeks kung talaga dere-deretso pa or kung magkakaroon po ng surge, we might opt to go back to the mandatory use of face mask. Kasi may ordinance naman po kami patungkol diyan na pupwede naman po nating i- amend, pero wala pa naman pong plano sa ngayon kasi hindi naman po alarming pa yung pagtaas” she said.

One of the reasons for the increase in cases, according to Lacuna, was the long Holy Week break where many residents had traveled in and out of the country.

“Maaaring yun po ang rason kasi talaga po marami pong nanggaling sa pagbabakasyon both local and international and we all know naman na hindi na po strict ang pagamit ng face mask sa mga lugar na pinupuntahan o madalas na napupuntahan ngayon, so maaaring yun po ang dahilan kung bakit po may uptick ng cases po," Lacuna said.

With this, Lacuna encouraged residents to wear face masks, especially in crowded places to contain possible surge of the virus.

Meanwhile, public health expert Dr. Tony Leachon said the positivity rate of COVID-19 in the country has increased to 7 percent.

This is higher compared to the less than 5 percent benchmark of the World Health Organization.

With the increasing cases, wearing of face mask is necessary, Leachon added.

This will also prevent spread of the new sub-variant, identified as subvariant 1.16 or subvariant Arcturus.

The said sub-variant has not yet detected in the Philippines but Leachon said there is a possibility that it will enter the country.

“Hindi pa siya nakakapasok kasi wala pang nire-report ang Department of Health, pero hindi ako magtataka na makakapasok kasi according to WHO highly infective siya. Ibig sabihin madaling makahawa. Number 2, highly pathogenic, madaling mag cause ng sakit at ito daw ay more infectious than the old [sub-variant], yung huling pinaka-infectious," he said.

Symptoms of Arcturus sub-variant, according to Leachon, include fever, breathing difficulty, runny nose, sore throat and conjunctivitis or sore eyes. 

Compared to the Delta variant, sub-variant Arcturus is not highly threatening.

But this sub-variant is highly contagious, which is why Leachon said Filipinos must not be complacent, especially those with comorbidities.

The variant could also lead to long COVID.

“Huwag tayong maging kampante tsaka yung long COVID, mahirap. 'Yung long COVID, common 'yan sa ordinary na tao, mga 20-40 percent. Kahit magaling kana may sintomas ka pa ring mararamdaman dahil dito," Leachon explained.

For Leachon, Filipinos need not to panic yet, because some of them had been vaccinated already while some had been infected with the virus that boosted their immunity.

But to ensure safety, wearing of face mask is still necessary.

It is also important that young adults ranging from 18 years old up to 50 years old must get the second booster dose.

“I think napapanahon na rin kasi baka nag wane na yung immunity natin at ang pagaaral 6-12 months humihina ang ating immunity,” Leachon said.

Leachon suggested the Department of Health should take advantage of the dry season to vaccinate more Filipinos in preparation for the coming rainy season were cases of COVID-19 is expected to increase.

An uptick of COVID-19 in some parts of the country has been observed.

For the WHO, it is important to closely monitor the number of COVID fatalities and if the capacity of hospitals for covid patients has already been exhausted according to Dr. Babatunde Olowokure, the emergency director of WHO Western Pacific.

“It is not a concern but we continue to monitor, we continue to look at the severity and if we do see an increase, of course, we will be in touch with the DOH and to see how we can support, “Dr. Babatunde Olowokure said.

The Philippine Health Department meanwhile, has not yet issued a statement on the Arcturus sub-variant.