MANILA — The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday said it would not be surprising if COVID-19 cases in the Philippines surged because of the recent events in the country.
“We have seen over the holiday season that these physical distancing requirements have not been followed. There have been a lot of movement, a lot of get-together. And we’ve seen most recently on Saturday with the Traslacion in Manila massive get together of people,” WHO Country Representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe said during a Laging Handa briefing, referring to the Feast of the Black Nazarene, which drew a crowd of more than 400,000 people.
“This kind of close contact will give rise for further transmission of the virus for further infection of people. So it is inevitable that the Philippines is going to see an increase in cases,” the WHO official added.
Abeyasinghe said the WHO has been working with the Department of Health to remind people to follow minimum health standards such as the wearing of face masks, face shields, hand hygiene and physical distancing.
“With the increased transmission that we are seeing, how fast can we bring that under control?” he said.
Abeyasinghe said it is crucial to identify new cases as early as possible and implement extensive contact tracing.
He also raised concerns over the possible lack of personnel that could impact contact-tracing efforts.
“We believe with the holiday season some of the cadres that were recruited for contact tracing and management are still waiting for contract renewals and this could hamper having an effective response to this surge,” the official said.
Abeyasinghe said these following an OCTA Group report noted an upward trend of cases in the National Capital Region.
But Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during Tuesday’s Palace briefing that there are other factors in play.
“This has to be interpreted cautiously dahil alam natin during the holiday period bumaba ang laboratory output by as much as 30% (because we know that during the holiday period the laboratory output went down by as much as 30%),” she said. “These might have some effect on the number of reported cases.”
Vergeire also previously said that they will have to wait for laboratories to be fully functional again in order to see the real situation.
As for the possible spread of COVID-19 during the Traslacion, Vergeire said they would usually count around 14 days to take into account the incubation period of the virus.
Vergeire said the COVID-19 situation in NCR actually seemed to have stabilized.
“Ang NCR hindi sila nagbibigay ng pagtaas ng kaso nasa ibang regions natin nakikita ngayon,” she asid.
(NCR does not contribute to the increase in cases. We’re seeing it more in other regions.)