Metro Manila mayors move to arrest COVID-19 uptick, possible Omicron spread

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Metro Manila mayors move to arrest COVID-19 uptick, possible Omicron spread
Filipino shoppers flock to Quiapo in Manila City on Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021 to purchase round fruits and other goods in preparation for New Year's Day celebrations.
The STAR / Walter Bollozos

MANILA, Philippines — The local chief executives of Metro Manila's hardest-hit cities assured residents that the local government units are prepared to arrest the recent increase in coronavirus cases and the possible spread of the pathogen's Omicron variant as they encouraged Filipinos to get vaccinated. 

According to independent pandemic monitor OCTA Research, of the 3,314 coronavirus cases recorded in Metro Manila on Sunday, the cities of Manila, Quezon, and Makati topped the list with 949, 648, and 211 cases in their localities respectively. Sunday's nationwide tally saw 3,617 new COVID-19 cases added, marking the highest single-day increase since October 30 of last year.

In a statement, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso assured the public that the city government has taken necessary preparations to combat the spread of the virus, especially the more transmissible Omicron variant.     

“There are steps that are being done...While it is true that we are still in a situation that's still manageable for us, I don't want it to come to a point where we're playing catch-up,” the presidential aspirant said in a live video posted on his Facebook page. 

Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte also assured citizens that the city's Task Force Omicron immediately held a meeting to discuss the city’s strategies in curbing the spread of the infection. 

“The recent rise in cases is disturbing and alarming and I think it is better to be ready and plan ahead than to panic when the cases rise even more in the city. We will reinforce our successful strategies, which helped us survive the onslaught of the Delta surge,” Belmonte said.

In Navotas City, which recorded 73 new cases of the virus on Sunday, Mayor Toby Tiangco announced he was one of those who tested positive. 

"I apologize to everyone I encountered in the past few days and ask you to observe your health carefully. If you feel unwell, consult a doctor immediately," he wrote in a Facebook post. 

This comes as Metro Manila's mayors agreed to pass ordinances restricting the movements and activities of unvaccinated people in the capital region while it is under Alert Level 3 or higher.

Metro Manila supplies still enough for now

Moreno said that based on inventory as of Sunday, Manila’s “medicine cabinet” has a stockpile of anti-COVID drugs including 22,758 tablets of Mulnopiravir; 3,935 of Remdesivir; 3520 of Baricitinib; and 732 of Tocilizumab. About 20,000 tablets or 500 bottles of Molnupiravir also arrived at Manila City Hall on Monday afternoon. 

Manila has in its storage facility at the Sta. Ana Hospital 21,672 doses of Pfizer; Moderna, 51,920 doses; 1,261 of the single-dose Janssen; Astrazeneca, 53,780; and 9,583 doses of Sinovac. 

Manila also has 1,374 tanks of oxygen in reserve, Moreno said, which is on top of the city’s regular usage of oxygen. 

“Our quarantine facility was again reactivated yesterday. There are quarantine facilities in 12 areas in the city with a total 530-bed capacity. We also have two ‘dormitels’ with a 200-bed capacity. All of them are already cleaned,” Moreno said. 

The Quezon City government also said it still has an ample supply of AstraZeneca vaccines for boosters after the city immediately procured 1.1 million doses back in 2020. 

“We have a lot of vaccine doses that can boost the immunity of our constituents. We urge all QCitizens and the rest of the Filipino population to include booster shots in their list of new year’s resolutions.  Our vaccination sites are continuously operating to administer shots for everyone,” Mayor Belmonte said.

The 344-bed Manila COVID-19 Field Hospital is now housing 307 infected returning overseas Filipinos and Filipino workers, Moreno also said.

According to the Department of Health, 27 percent of ICU beds in Metro Manila are being used. 26 percent of ward beds are also utilized while 23 percent of isolation beds are in use. 

Contingency plans activated

Moreno said the 24/7 hotlines for the Manila health department have already been reactivated for anyone needing drugs stored by the city government or those who just want to be tested. The services are reachable through:

  • 09150656335; 09954966176; 09616281414; 09608229384; and 09777297572;
  • and landline numbers 892-62385; 892-62380; and 892-62383. 

“It may be busy sometimes but you have to keep on trying...We won't turn anyone away,” Moreno said as he reminded the public that RT-PCR testing is free in the City of Manila.

“We also intend to intensify vaccination this month by adding more sites and teams," she added. 

Quezon City residents who had received their second doses (Moderna, Sinovac, Pfizer, Gamaleya, AstraZeneca) at least three months ago may register for booster shots at the QC Vax Easy portal.

In San Juan City, Mayor Francis Zamora announced the opening of the city’s COVID-19 vaccine registration system to the 5-11 years old priority group.

“We are being proactive to protect the children especially since they are allowed to go out in public and face-to-face classes are slowly being implemented," he said. 

Zamora also called on his constituents who are yet to get their booster shots to register in the vaccine registration portal already.

As of January 3, 2022, San Juan City has recorded 197 active cases.

Local chief executives: Get vaccinated as soon as possible

Moreno urged parents to have their kids vaccinated as soon as possible as he announced the resumption of the city’s vaccination program on January 3, adding that the city is just waiting for guidelines from the national government to start inoculating children in the 5 to 11-year-old bracket.

He also urged those still not vaccinated to get their shots, stressing that most new cases came from the ranks of the unvaccinated. 

“While it is true that we have achieved more than double of the target population, we still have some compatriots who are not vaccinated...we've noticed that most of our patients are children and people who have not been vaccinated. A large percentage of those infected are not vaccinated,” Moreno said. 

“The city of Manila is ready to vaccinate 5-11 years old. We are just waiting for Pfizer and the national government to tell us what dosage and how many to vaccinate. We still haven't gotten any guidelines, but once they come, we will immediately deploy the vaccination of 5-11 years old."

Zamora for his part announced that the San Juan government is targeting around 6,000 registrants for the 5-11 years old category.

In Quezon City, Task Force Omicron said it would focus on Active Case Finding; Quarantine & Isolation; Enforcement of Health Protocols; and Boosters and Vaccination of the Population. 

Quoting OCTA Research Fellow Fr. Nick Austriaco, the city government said in a statement that while the Omicron variant is less potent than the Delta variant, it is much more transmissible and infectious.

According to data from the United Kingdom that Fr. Austriaco presented to barangay officials and other city government officers, 19% of Omicron cases resulted from household transmission, more than twice the number of household transmissions from the Delta variant.

“If one person gets sick in the house, it is twice as easy for Omicron to infect the household,” Austriaco was quoted as saying. This means that it is likely that entire households in QC will become infected with the Omicron variant.

He added that booster shots, regardless of the brand, restore antibody levels against Omicron.

"Very recent data from the United Kingdom revealed that booster shots as a whole protected people by 88% against the Omicron variant as compared to unvaccinated persons.  AZ and Pfizer boosters protected people by 93% and 95% against the Delta variant, which is still the predominant variant in the NCR," the QC LGU's statement reads.




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