Higher alert level in Metro Manila unnecessary – WHO

Mayen Jaymalin - The Philippine Star
Higher alert level in Metro Manila unnecessary â WHO
Vendors and shoppers at Ilaya Divisoria show their vaccination card in a surprise random inspection of Task Force Malasakit of Manila on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2022. The move was made following the approval of a new city ordinance prohibiting unvaccinated individuals outside their homes.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — A stricter quarantine alert level is not necessary at this time, even if cases of COVID-19 in Metro Manila continue to soar, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday.

At a press briefing, WHO country representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe said COVID-19 cases in the region could be “plateauing.”

“We are looking closely at the current Alert Level 3. As I mentioned earlier, we are seeing a significant decrease in mobility and if today’s reduction in numbers is an indication, maybe the current alert levels are adequate,” Abeyasinghe said.

The WHO official noted that raising the quarantine alert level and imposing restrictions are necessary “only if we see signs of the healthcare system being overwhelmed.”

“Right now we don’t see that. Our projections are that the Philippines may be able to avert that even if the current trends continue,” Abeyasinghe said.

“The analysis that we have done projects that we can manage the health system until the 27th or 28th of January, given the trends up to yesterday (Jan. 11),” he said.

Last Tuesday, daily recorded cases of COVID-19 dropped by 5,000 compared to the previous day’s tally.

“So this may be an indication that we are seeing a plateauing of COVID cases,” Abeyasinghe said.

“But we need to be aware that we will continue to see the total number of COVID-19 cases increasing,” he added, noting that virus transmissions are spreading in other regions.

DOH sees no improvement

The Department of Health (DOH) does not see the COVID-19 situation in the country improving soon amid the slight decline in daily cases on Tuesday.

“It is premature (to assume that). Our cases were lower because the data came from the Sunday testing outputs and usually during Sundays, testing outputs are low because many laboratories are closed,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told the Kapihan sa Manila Bay virtual media forum.

According to Duque, the decline in COVID-19 cases is not an “indication that the peak is over.”

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

Duque’s statement was echoed by One Hospital Command operations manager Bernadett Velasco, who underscored that it was only the first time that cases of COVID-19 dropped from 33,169 on Jan. 10 to 28,007 on Jan. 11.

“We cannot say (it’s going down). We have to see the trend,” Velasco told “The Chiefs” on One News/TV 5 on Tuesday night.

She noted that the health capacity in Metro Manila remained at moderate risk.

OCTA’s observation

OCTA Research Group fellow Guido David observed that the number of new COVID-19 cases in the National Capital Region is still on an upward trend even as it slowed down in recent days with the reproduction rate decreasing to 4.69 on Jan. 8 from a high of 6.16 on Jan. 2.

“The reproduction number had been higher than 5 since Dec. 30, 2021, when the outbreak in the NCR started,” David said.

“A decreasing reproduction number indicates that the trend is slowing down. One way to think of this is a decreasing growth rate – cases are still rising but at a slower pace,” he added.

A reproduction number of less than 1.0 is needed before a downward trend in the number of COVID cases is observed.

David said Metro Manila is experiencing a “severe outbreak” of COVID-19 with 55 percent of the new infections logged in the region on Tuesday.

“Are we close to the peak in the NCR? Hopefully. Because the trends being observed are based on limited data, there is still uncertainty when the peak might happen,” he said.

Granular lockdown

Meanwhile, the number of areas in the NCR placed under granular lockdown climbed to 94 yesterday.

In a report, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said these areas consisted of 77 houses and 17 residential buildings. Last week, only 22 areas were under lockdown.

Forty-one of these locked down areas are in Manila, 35 in northern Metro Manila and 18 in eastern Metro Manila, the PNP said. No place in Quezon City and southern Metro Manila is under lockdown. – Emmanuel Tupas, Sheila Crisostomo, Janvic Mateo


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