MANILA - As the yuletide season nears and Filipinos begin to return home and spend the holidays with their loved ones, the Department of Health (DOH) is preparing for a possible surge in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases in the Philippines.
Health Sec. Francisco Duque III said in a public briefing aired late Monday evening that the DOH will create a contingency plan that will enable health authorities and other officials to respond if a "post-holiday season surge" in COVID-19 infections occurs in the Philippines.
"Nais ko pong paalalahanan ang lahat na habang ang bilang ng kaso ay patuloy na pababa, hindi ito dapat maging dahilan upang tayo'y maging mas maluwag o complacent," he said.
Duque said the DOH will implement its Department Circular 2020-0355, or the Reiteration of the Minimum Public Health Standards for COVID-19 Mitigation during the holidays, to remind Filipinos to continue observing anti-coronavirus policies, like physical distancing, wearing of face masks and face shields, and frequent handwashing.
Under the circular, holiday activities such as caroling, shopping in crowded markets and shopping centers, indoor gathering with large crowds, riding in stuffed public transportation vehicles, and others that involve physical contact are discouraged.
"Pinaalahanan ng DOH na naririto pa rin ang banta ng COVID-19. Kung kaya po nararapat ang ibayong pagingat upang panatilihin ang kalusugan at kaligtasan natin at ng ating mga mahal sa buhay," he said.
Duque called for assistance from other government agencies such as the Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Transportation, and local government units to implement the circular.
Earlier Monday, the Philippines confirmed 1,799 more COVID-19 cases, bringing the country's total number of infections to 420,614. The DOH recorded 50 additional COVID-related deaths, raising the death toll to 8,173, while 135 more patients were reported cured, leading to a total of 386,604 recoveries, or 91.9 percent of the cumulative total of cases.
Active cases stand at 25,837.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that the COVID-19 cases in the Philippines has “plateaued” and that critical care utilization was only at moderate risk levels, which is a “good indication.”