DOH: More time needed to assess NCR's COVID-19 situation

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 25 2021 02:48 PM | Updated as of Sep 25 2021 03:34 PM

Residents in an area under granular lockdown in Brgy. UP Campus in Quezon City undergo mass swab testing on September 22, 2021. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News
Residents in an area under granular lockdown in Brgy. UP Campus in Quezon City undergo mass swab testing on September 22, 2021. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA— The Department of Health (DOH) on Saturday said they need more time to assess whether the COVID-19 situation in Metro Manila has improved, after an official said there's a possibility of easing lockdown restrictions in the region. 

Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Benhur Abalos earlier in the day said he hoped that the capital region would be placed under Alert Level 3 should the pandemic situation further improve. 

Abalos cited data from the OCTA Research group, showing that the reproduction rate (R) in Metro Manila decreased to 1.03 on Sept. 22.

The R value indicates the rate of spread of the disease. An R value above 1 can lead to exponential growth.

But Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said it is too early to say if the situation in the region has already improved. 

"Lahat po ng iyan ay pinag-aaralan natin. We have just finished one week in implementing this pilot so kailangan pa po natin ng mas madaming panahon katulad nitong linggong darating," Vergeire said in a public briefing. 

(All of this we are studying. We have just finished one week in implementing this pilot so we need more time like this coming week.)

"[Ito'y] para makita natin kung sadya talaga na itong pagbaba ng mga kaso ay mai-a-attribute na natin na talagang nagiging effective ang ating response," she added.

(This is so we see if the decline is organic and we can attribute it to how effective our response is.)

The DOH is the authority in determining the Alert Level classification for an area, authorities earlier said, which is heavily based on health care utilization rate, average daily attack rate, and the number of new COVID-19 cases. 

The new quarantine system was enforced in Metro Manila on Sept. 16, under which areas with COVID-19 clusters are placed under granular lockdown, instead of closing off entire cities or regions. The period of implementation will lapse on Sept. 30.

The health official said that aside from COVID-19 figures, authorities should also look at the compliance of health protocols, vaccination rate, and the detection and isolation of virus patients. 

"Lahat ng ito po ay titingnan natin sa pagsasagawa ng (All of these we will consider in making our) assessment and we will be informing the public pagkatapos nito (after this)."

On Friday, the agency said it was investigating why COVID-19 testing in Metro Manila decreased in the past week, which could be the reason behind the relatively low number of new infections.

Vergeire said the low number of tests could also be attributed to positive results of antigen tests that did not make it to the total COVID-19 tally. 

“People are using this for screening borders, screening for work, screening for certain activities; and that is not right or proper use of antigen at baka magkaroon tayo ng (we might get) inaccurate results," she explained.

Fresh cases counted less than 20,000 in the past 6 days, after 3 days of over 20,000 infections daily from Sept. 16 to 18, data showed.

Metro Manila is currently under Alert Level 4, the second to the highest lockdown restriction under the new lockdown scheme, until the end of the month. 

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Video from PTV