WHO: No need to raise alert level in Metro Manila

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WHO: No need to raise alert level in Metro Manila
Devotees at National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help at Baclaran in Parañaque City show their vaccine cards prior to entering church premises on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022. Metro Manila mayors had agreed to restrict activities and movement of unvaccinated individuals as COVID-19 cases surge anew.
The STAR / Michael Varca

MANILA, Philippines — There is no need to raise Metro Manila's alert level to 4 as the health system can still manage the surge in COVID-19 cases, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.

“We are looking closely at the current Alert Level 3. We are seeing a significant reduction in mobility and if yesterday’s reduction in numbers is any indication, maybe the current alert levels are adequate,” Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO representative to the Philippines, told state television PTV. 

The current alert level status of the capital region will expire on January 15.

Abeyasinghe stressed that restrictions will be tightened “only if we see signs of the health system being overwhelmed.”

“Right now we don’t see that,” he said.

“The red line analysis we have done projects we can manage the health system until about the 27th or 28th of January given the trends up to yesterday,” the WHO official added, noting the system may be able to handle the surge beyond those dates if the decline in cases continues.

The Department of Health on Tuesday logged 28,007 additional COVID-19 cases, lower than the record-high of 33,169 cases on Monday.

But DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III stressed that it is premature to say that the country has reached the peak of its COVID-19 surge after reporting a slight decrease in the daily case tally.

“We might still be in the acceleration phase of our surge,” Duque said.

Targeted testing

According to Abeyasinghe, it would be a better use of resources to continue targeted testing following calls for mass testing.

“Given the higher transmissibility of Omicron, it would be prudent to reserve the testing capacity to test symptomatic people, especially symptomatic elderly and vulnerable people,” he said.

The WHO official said that there is no need to do confirmatory testing if one member of a household tests positive.

“You just need to assume it’s Omicron and because it’s much milder, it would be prudent to just isolate or quarantine as the case may be,” Abeyasinghe said.  

“It would not be necessary to test and confirm every infection unless of course if you’re in vulnerable groups or elderly where it will be useful to understand so we can initiate early treatment,” he added.

The Philippines has registered over three million COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. 

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