MANILA— The Philippines' COVID-19 risk classification is back to "moderate" from low risk as growth in cases swelled in the past 2 weeks, the Department of Health (DOH) said Thursday.
The growth rate of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines jumped to 1 percent in the past two weeks from a -10 percent rate some 3 to 4 weeks ago, Health spokesperson Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.
From July 22 to 28, the Philippines' average daily reported COVID-19 cases was at 1,013, which is 285 cases higher than the average the prior week, she said in an online press conference.
Nearly all regions are showing an increase in cases, with the Cordillera Autonomous Region (CAR) as the lone high-risk region in the Philippines, data from the DOH showed.
While hospitals in CAR are half full, the growth of cases in the region jumped to 10 percent from 8 percent, with its average daily attack rate in the past 2 weeks at 7 percent, it said.
The National Capital Region (NCR) "is a cause of concern" as the DOH saw more COVID-19 cases in several cities, Vergeire said.
"In NCR, we are flagging 11 areas but we do not call this a surge," she said.
"Ayaw natin nagpapanic ang ating mga kababayan... pero kailangan nag-iingat tayo," she said.
(We do not want the public to panic... but we have to be careful.)
Makati, Las Piñas and Pasay are considered high-risk areas in Metro Manila due to their high average daily attack rate, Vergeire said.
Makati City's intensive care units are 82 percent full, while similar beds in Las Piñas are already 93.10 percent occupied, she said.
Growth rate of cases in Pasay zoomed to 25 percent in the past 2 weeks from -9 percent, data showed.
So far, the prevailing COVID-19 variants of concern in the Philippines are the Alpha and Beta variants, but the DOH urged the public to guard against the possible spread of the Delta strain, which is twice more contagious than other coronavirus mutations.
"Nakapasok na 'yung Delta variant. Nakita na natin siya sa iba't ibang lugar so ang kailangan natin ngayon ay putulin 'yung transmission," she said.
(The Delta variant has entered our country. We've seen it in different places so what we need to do now is to cut its transmission.)
The DOH is recommending to shorten the interval between detection of cases and isolation or quarantine to 5 days, Vergeire said.
"Rapid antigen tests may be used for confirmation of suspect or probable cases and close contacts," she said.
"Facility isolation and quarantine have to be prioritized to prevent household transmission," she said.
Independent research group OCTA earlier urged the national government to launch a "circuit-breaker lockdown" to curb the spread of the Delta variant, but the Inter-Agency Task Force opted to maintain status quo.
President Rodrigo Duterte told village officials to bar unvaccinated individuals from leaving their homes as they are more susceptible to contracting the disease.
As of July 25, a total of 6,089,314 Filipinos have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, data from the national government released Monday showed.
The number of fully vaccinated individuals accounts for 10.5 percent of the government's target of 58 million fully immunized individuals by year end, the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group said.