Philippines' New Year's Eve COVID tally feared to reach 3,000

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 31 2021 09:24 AM | Updated as of Dec 31 2021 04:30 PM

Visitors flock to the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City on Christmas Day, Saturday. Health experts cautioned on the slight increase in COVID-19 cases compared last week and advised the public to observe minimum health protocols as threat of coronavirus remain. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News
Visitors flock to the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City on Christmas Day, Saturday. Health experts cautioned on the slight increase in COVID-19 cases compared last week and advised the public to observe minimum health protocols as threat of coronavirus remain. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (UPDATE) - The Philippines could report 3,000 more COVID-19 cases on New Year's Eve, more than double from Thursday, with the positivity rate going as high as 10 percent, the UP Pandemic Response Team said.

Most of the virus cases are coming from Metro Manila, said Professor Jomar Rabajante of the University of the Philippines (UP) pandemic response team.

"I don’t want to be early in reporting this one from DOH (Department of Health), but we already know today we are going to have around 10 percent positivity rate because we already have the test results from the laboratories," he told ANC's Rundown.

"And if the number of positive (cases) for today, will be validated and reported by DOH, it will be around 3,000 we are expecting the numbers to really increase."

The rise in cases can be attributed to the increase in mobility and lax observation of minimum public health standards, Rabajante said.

"Most of the people are coming from the working class age group, coming from millennials and Gen Z, 20s and 30s. Probably because of many reasons... frontlines are also within this age range, these people are very mobile, they can already go outside," he said.

The group is also considering the possibility of the spread of the omicron variant but this has yet to be validated by the Philippine Genome Center, according to Rabajante.

"If this will be omicron, then this might be higher than the peak we had last September. We might be expecting more people to be infected during the first (few) weeks of January 2022," he said.

"We still need to wait for the DNA sequenced results from the Philippine Genome Center to really see if this is already omicron. Remember delta is also very transmissible."

Local governments must have the capacity to detect COVID-19 variants, he added.

"Most of the samples going to Philippine Genome Center are from the airports, but LGUs need to have their own tech into detect in their locality what variant they are having. This needs money, more people working with Philippine Genome Center to increase their processes. We should have done this even before the delta surge," he said.

"There are already technology from other countries where we have similar tech to DNA (sequencing) technology. They already have these kits that can already detect what variant we have in the Philippines."

Rabajante reminded the public to follow minimum health standards as he warned of superspreader events. He cited as an example a woman who traveled from the United States and skipped mandatory quarantine, and might have infected 15 people.

"That girl might cause a superspreading event in that place where she went," he said. "This might be an instance where people are gathered in one place which is not minding ventilation."

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At least two major hospitals have reported an increase in COVID-19 admissions as of Thursday. The Philippine General Hospital's virus cases have increased to 65 from 13 last December 25, said its spokesperson Dr. Jonas del Rosario.

St. Luke's Medical Center reported 42 percent positivity rate among suspect COVID-19 infections, according to its chief medical officer Dr. Benjamin Campomanes.

The Lung Center of the Philippines, meantime, has 8 COVID-19 patients, 6 of whom are in critical condition, said Dr. Norberto Francisco, pulmonary medicine specialist and media relations officer.

The hospital currently has an allocation of 56 beds for COVID patients, 8 of which are occupied. Of the total virus patients, 6 are in critical condition, according to Francisco.

"Even if we see increasing numbers, ang analysis ko po dito, dahil maraming nagpapanic eh...kung totoo po na hindi nagbabago ang sitwasyon sa ospital ang maaaring explanation po dito ang nagiinfect sa community hindi nagta-translate into disease, they are merely a positive test," he told ABS-CBN's Teleradyo.

(Even if we see increasing numbers, my analysis is--because so many people are panicking--if situation in hospitals remain the same, the possible explanation is the illness of those who spread infection in the community does not translate into disease, they are merely a positive test.)

"Ibig sabihin ng infection nakapasok sa katawan ang virus, it does not necessarily mean they become severely ill that they need hospitalization. This is the effect we are looking for in the vaccination process. Kaya mahalagang mahalaga po pinapaspasan natin ang vaccination process natin."

(It means the virus got inside their body, it does not necessarily mean they become severely ill that they need hospitalization. This is the effect we are looking for in the vaccination process. That's why it's really important we intensify our vaccination efforts.)

The Philippines has so far fully vaccinated 48.7 million individuals while 57 million have received an initial dose and 1.6 million booster shorts have been administered as of Tuesday, according to the DOH.

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The Philippines on Thursday registered 1,623 more COVID-19 cases, nearly double the daily tally on Wednesday, as authorities continued to monitor the pandemic situation amid the threat of the omicron variant. 

The day's tally is considered the highest since Nov. 21, when the country confirmed 2,227 cases, data showed.