Philippines now 'low-risk' for COVID-19: health dept

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 25 2021 12:54 PM

People flock to the Dapitan Arcade in Quezon City to purchase Christmas decorations on October 19, 2021 days after the capital region was put under COVID-19 Alert Level 3 which allows for the opening of more business establishments. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
People flock to the Dapitan Arcade in Quezon City to purchase Christmas decorations on October 19, 2021 days after the capital region was put under COVID-19 Alert Level 3 which allows for the opening of more business establishments. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Philippines is now "low-risk" for COVID-19 following the decline of fresh infections in the past two weeks, the Department of Health said Monday.

The country's daily new cases decreased by 48 percent in the recent two weeks, with its healthcare capacity at "moderate-risk" classification, according to DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.

"The current average daily cases have further decreased to reach our baseline average before cases started to rise back in July," she told reporters.

The Philippines last week reported 5,251 average daily infections versus 5,399 from July 23 to 29, before a surge in COVID-19 cases, Vergeire said.

It also recorded a "moderate-risk" 5.89 average daily attack rate (ADAR) or the number of cases per 100,000 individuals in an area, she added.

Virus cases in Metro Manila declined by 53 percent in the past two weeks, according to DOH data. Its bed and intensive care unit (ICU) utilization is considered "low-risk" at 36 percent and 46 percent, respectively, Vergeire said.

The Philippine COVID-19 referral system has been receiving fewer calls for help in securing hospital admission as coronavirus cases in the country have fallen in the past week.

Dr. Bernadett Velasco, operations manager of One Hospital Command Center, said they were receiving between 150 to 200 calls for help daily. The system was receiving 600 to 700 calls daily amid surging infections in August.

The OCTA Research Group, which monitors the country's COVID-19 situation using data from the DOH, attributed the decline in new infections to the vaccination drive, which, so far, has resulted in the full inoculation of 25.7 million people, and partial vaccination of 30 million others.

"Isa sa madaling paliwanag ay medyo marami na tayong nabakunahan. Aside from that, meron ding may dala ng antibodies dahil previously infected na sila," OCTA's Guido David told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo on Sunday.

(One of the easy explanations is we have vaccinated many individuals. Aside from that, others who have been previously infected carry antibodies.) 

"Pag pinagsama natin ito, maaaring hindi pa siguro tayo nasa herd immunity, pero medyo malapit na tayo. Nasa population protection na tayo (sa Metro Manila)," he added. 

(If we combine their numbers, we might not have achieved herd immunity yet but we're near that already. We've achieved population protection [in Metro Manila] already.)

Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr. earlier said 81 percent of Metro Manila's eligible population have been fully vaccinated.

The government aims to inoculate at least 77 million all over the country to achieve herd immunity.

Healthcare utilization in Cagayan Valley, Bicol region, and Zamboanga Peninsula, meantime, remains "high-risk" at 88.57 percent, 71.43 percent, and 71.23 percent, respectively, according to Vergeire.

"We are not saying we're are out of the woods. We're not saying we've totally decongested hospitals. What we're saying is a matter of fact... Nandyan pa rin po ang patuloy na pagmo-monitor and pag-o-augment sa mga ospital," she said.

The DOH also observed a decline in deaths since the beginning of October and has so far recorded 1,633, or 63 deaths daily average versus the peak of fatalities recorded in August with 5,189 or 167 average deaths per day.

The agency, meantime, warned the public against complacency as the holiday season approaches. Families are urged to "maintain their bubbles," wear masks, observe physical distancing and conduct their gatherings outdoors, Vergeire said.

"We can always have these kind of activities at kailangan magtulungan tayo. Kailangan ipatupad ang safety protocols para patuloy nating maranasan ang ating kinagawian na activities," she said.

(We can always have these kind of activities, and we need the cooperation of everybody. We need to enforce safety protocols so we can continue the activities we used to do.)

"Nakasalalay po sa'ting lahat kung babalik tayo sa pagkahigpit at pagtaas ng kaso at maraming na-o-ospital."

(It's up to us if we will go back to tight restrictions and increasing virus cases and hospitalization.)

The Philippines' total confirmed COVID-19 cases stood at 2,756,923, as of Sunday, of which, 60,957 are active.

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