‘Not out of woods yet,’ official says as COVID cases slightly go down in NCR

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 23 2021 05:31 PM | Updated as of Aug 23 2021 06:15 PM

Commuters queue up to ride the EDSA bus carousel from the Roosevelt station in Quezon City on August 23, 2021, the first weekday after Metro Manila is placed back under modified enhanced community quarantine.
Commuters queue up to ride the EDSA bus carousel from the Roosevelt station in Quezon City on August 23, 2021, the first weekday after Metro Manila is placed back under modified enhanced community quarantine. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — While Metro Manila has recorded slightly lower COVID-19 figures due to its 2-week lockdown, its 13 million people are "not out of the woods" yet, an official said on Monday. 

The capital region's reproduction rate, or the number of people who can get the virus from a COVID-19 patient, was at 1.67 percent from Aug. 8 to 14, down from 1.9 percent between Aug. 15 and 21, said Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Benhur Abalos. 

Hospital bed occupancy in the region remains in the moderate risk level, noted the official. 

"Bumaba nang bahagya ang ating reproductive rate, gumanda nang bahagya. But it does not mean we’re out of the woods, mag-ingat pa rin tayo," he said in a press briefing. 

(Our reproductive rate went down slightly, it improved slightly. But it does not mean we're out of the woods, let us stay safe.) 

Metro Manila was under enhanced community quarantine, the strictest of 4 lockdown levels, from Aug. 6 to 20. Its lockdown level was downgraded a notch to modified ECQ from Aug. 21 to 31. 

"Nakita po natin, may effect pa rin 'yong tinatawag nating ECQ... Meron pa rin siyang gamit, pero because of its effect on the business sector, nakikita natin na it's not sustainable," vaccine "czar" Carlito Galvez Jr. said in the same briefing. 

To avoid another round of ECQ, authorities are increasing hospitals and treatment centers and ramping up the vaccination, said Galvez, who is chief implementer of the National Task Force on COVID-19. 

Metro Manila authorities have kept at least 3,641 granular lockdowns, requested to use more hotels as quarantine sites, and asked for 50,000 reserve RT-PCR test kits, said Abalos. 

The region has also vaccinated 11.6 million people, of whom at least 4.2 million have completed their inoculation, he said. 

The labor department meanwhile agreed to extend the contract of its contact-tracers in the region for 2 months, added the official. 

Metro Manila's ECQ was meant to keep down the daily tally of new coronavirus infections below 25,000, Malacañang spokesman Harry Roque. 

Roque said authorities expect it would take 4 or 5 more days after the lockdown to see a "substantial" decrease of cases. 

"We are within our projections po, so I would say, we have achieved our [target] achievements for now," he said in the briefing. 

The health department on Sunday confirmed 16,044 new infections, which raised the country's total number of cases to some 1.83 million, among the highest in Asia. 

The Philippines aims to vaccinate up to 70 million people this year to achieve herd immunity and safely reopen the economy. At least 13 million people nationwide are now fully inoculated. 

Video courtesy of PTV