DOH: Philippines now at 'critical risk' for COVID-19

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DOH: Philippines now at 'critical risk' for COVID-19
Community watchmen kept an eye on those entering Barangay 02 Zone 1 on Layug Street in Pasay City on Monday, Jan. 10, 2022. The area is under granular lockdown due to high occurrence of COVID-19 cases.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 1:12 p.m.) — The Philippines is now at critical risk from COVID-19, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Monday, as the country struggles to contain a steep rise in infections believed to be fueled by the Omicron variant.

"Our country is currently under critical risk case classification with a 690% increase in the seven-day moving average of daily reported cases," Duque said in a briefing with President Rodrigo Duterte.

According to Duque, the Philippines registered a 3,663% two-week COVID-19 growth rate as new cases hit record highs over the past days.

The country’s average daily attack rate also rose to 10.47 per 100,000 individuals.

Metro Manila, Calabarzon and Central Luzon are also deemed at critical risk from COVID-19.

The Cordillera Administrative Region, Ilocos region, Cagayan Valley, Mimaropa, Bicol region, Western Visayas, Central Visayas and Davao region are at high risk.

Under moderate risk classification are Eastern Visayas, Caraga, Northern Mindanao, Soccsksargen and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Zamboanga Peninsula is sole region tagged as low risk.

Total bed use in the country was at 24% and intensive care unit utilization was at 26%.

The Philippines on Monday registered 33,169 additional COVID-19 cases, the third day in a row that the country reported a record number of infections. There are currently 157,526 active cases. 

The fresh surge in infections is threatening to overwhelm the country's fragile health system anew while more hospital staff and healthcare workers have been testing positive for COVID-19.

'Increase RT-PCR test capacity'

In a statement on Tuesday, reelectionist Sen. Risa Hontiveros again called on the government to increase testing capacity. 

Many Filipinos have reported that testing labs have been overwhelmed, resulting in difficulties in getting slots and in delays in test results. Many have also resorted to using antigen kits despite these not yet being authorized for use by the Food and Drug Administration.

"At the rate we are going, [Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectiosu Disease] has to double their daily output. Kasabay nito, dapat libre ang tests para sa mga high-risk individuals, at sa mga vulnerable sectors, tulad ng ating mga senior citizens (Along with this, tetss should be free for high-risk individuals and those in the vulnerable sectors like senior citizens)," Hontiveros said.

She added that government should also look after those who, because of lack of access to RT-PCR testing, have gone on home isolation or quarantine to lower COVID-19 risk. "We need to support them while they're recovering," she said in Filipino. 

She said Filipinos should be given information on how to administer home care to COVID-19 patients and suspected COVID-19 cases as well as access to telemedicine services.

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