Cases easing in Metro Manila, rising in 10 regions
This photo taken on April 6, 2021 shows a man wearing personal protective equipment walking into a makeshift ward built for COVID-19 patients at a hospital in Manila. More contagious variants of the coronavirus have been blamed for a record surge in infections in Metro Manila that has overwhelmed hospitals and sent the national capital region into lockdown.
AFP/Jam Sta. Rosa

Cases easing in Metro Manila, rising in 10 regions

Mayen Jaymalin (The Philippine Star) - May 19, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — While the National Capital Region (NCR) and neighboring provinces are seeing a “marked decline” in COVID-19 cases, 10 regions – mostly in the Visayas and Mindanao – are now being closely monitored following reports of increase in infection.

“NCR Plus areas have shown marked decline in both case and health care utilization data, but we need to closely monitor Visayas and Mindanao, which have shown an increasing trend,” DOH Epidemiology Bureau chief Dr. Alethea de Guzman said at a virtual briefing yesterday, referring to the term used to classify Metro Manila and the nearby provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal as the main COVID battlefront.

“In the Visayas and Mindanao there’s an increase, but an increase that’s not very fast. But we see an increase, compared to four weeks ago,” De Guzman noted.

She said the 10 regions have posted positive growth in average daily attack rate (ADAR) for the past two weeks.

The 10 regions with uptrend in COVID-19 cases are Regions 4B (MIMAROPA), 5 (Bicol Region), 6 (Western Visayas), 8 (Eastern Visayas), 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula), 11 (Davao Region), the Caraga region and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

Aside from Zamboanga Peninisula and BARMM, Cagayan Valley and Calabarzon in Luzon now have “high risk” health care utilization.

But natiownide, De Guzman said, average daily COVID cases have gone down to 5,886 compared to the peak of over 10,000 in April.

She said the DOH is targeting to reduce it further to 2,000 cases per day.

The daily average of COVID nationwide was only over a thousand in January.

Despite the uptrend in cases, De Guzman said the DOH sees no need for stricter quarantine measures in the Visayas and Mindanao, at least for now.

“The rationale is even if we are seeing case increases, if our health care capacity can accommodate case increase, no need to tighten community restriction,” De Guzman said.

“That’s why we check health care utilization rate, that’s where we base any decision to escalate community quarantine level,” she said. “At the moment, we see no such scenario in these areas.”

Confirmed COVID cases nationwide rose to 1,154,388 as the DOH logged additional 4,487 cases. Of the total number, 1,082,725 or 93.8 percent represent recoveries.

Active cases stand at 52,291 comprising 4.5 percent of the total cases. Additional 110 deaths brought to 19,372 the number of COVID-related fatalities or 1.68 percent of total cases.

The DOH is aiming to cut down the daily average of COVID cases in NCR to at least 500 from the current 1,070 cases, and the plus areas to 200 per day.

In an interview Monday night with OneNews “The Chiefs,” Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega expressed optimism that decline in COVID cases would continue despite the easing of quarantine restrictions.

Vega pointed out that heightened restriction would keep the people from becoming complacent as they would likely strictly follow minimum health protocols.

“In other words, heightened restriction only means it has to be calibrated, this has to be different from the old GCQ because there might emerge a sense of complacency among the people and they forget everything as if it’s back to normal and that’s when we experience this kind of surge,” Vega explained.

Vega further reported that for the past months, the DOH has been working to improve the health care capacity. Authorities have also strengthened border controls to keep COVID-19 variants at bay.

Variants everywhere

De Guzman, meanwhile, also reported that other COVID-19 variants have been detected in the country’s 15 regions.

She said said variants of concern were found in 35 percent of the total 5,991 samples subjected to genome sequencing.

“B 1.1.7 (UK variant) were found in 12 regions and B.1.351 (South African) variants were found in 15 regions,” De Guzman noted. Both UK and South African variants were detected in 11 regions nationwide.

She noted that P.1 (Brazil) and B.1.617.2 (Indian) variants were detected only among incoming travelers. There was a 15 percent increase in the detection of variants among incoming travelers.

“Based on latest data we can see the rising proportion of cases positive for variant of concern,” De Guzman said.

Most of the samples were collected from areas where variants had already been detected.

As of May 14, the Philippine Genome Center has detected a total of 967 cases of UK variant infection, 1,109 South African, 12 Indian variant, two Brazil variant and 158 Philippine variant.

She said samples are being collected from areas with high COVID cases to determine if variants are spreading or if they are contributing to overall increase in cases.

Undersecretary Vega said most of the variants detected came from incoming travelers.

“There has been no proof really that there has been local transmission, but this variant came from incoming passengers from abroad,” he said.

He assured the public that the health care system is sufficient to manage COVID cases.

Vega said they have also undertaken measures to improve the One Hospital Command system of referring and navigating patients needing hospitalization and other services.

Fewer admissions

Also in an interview with The Chiefs, Philippine General Hospital (PGH) spokesman Jonas del Rosario said the people are now aware of the possibility of a surge and thus are now more compliant with minimum health protocols.

“Generally people are not as careless as before,” he said, noting that COVID admissions in PGHs have dramatically dropped in the past weeks.

He said PGH’s telemedicine program has greatly helped unload the hospital of COVID patients who can get treatment at home.

Meanwhile, the OCTA Research Group said eight local government units (LGUs) in Metro Manila are now classified under “moderate risk” following the continuous decrease in new COVID-19 cases.

According to OCTA, the DOH classifies as high risk those that have an average daily attack rate of more than 10 infections per 100,000 population.

From May 11 to 17, the following LGUs recorded an average daily attack rate that is below the stated threshold: Navotas (4.49), Malabon (7.65), Manila (7.86), Caloocan (8.83), Muntinlupa (9.06), Taguig (9.39), Pasay (9.40) and Parañaque (9.94).

Other Metro Manila LGUs that are still considered high risk are Valenzuela (10.23), Marikina (10.35), Las Piñas (11.09), Quezon City (11.37), Pasig (13.21), Mandaluyong (13.29), Makati (14.08), Pateros (16.18) and San Juan (17.56).

During the period, Metro Manila recorded an average of 1,417 new cases per day or a daily attack rate of 10.26 per 100,000 population.

OCTA said the number of new cases in the region continues to decrease, with the positivity rate – which indicates the number of persons a positive individual can infect – dropping further to 0.57. – Janvic Mateo, Gilbert Bayoran

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