Citing old data, DOH mistakenly identifies emerging COVID-19 hot spots in Metro Manila

Bonz Magsambol
(UPDATED) The Department of Health clarifies hours later that Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire was reading data from June. The cases in 3 of the cities initially identified have since 'significantly declined.'

HOTSPOT. Passengers wait for buses along Commonwealth Avenue Quezon City on June 1, 2020, the first day of the General Community Quarantine in NCR. Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Department of Health (DOH) mistakenly announced 4 cities in Metro Manila as emerging hot spots of coronavirus infections on Monday afternoon, July 6, and realized it hours after news outlets (including Rappler) had carried the report.

In a statement sent to health reporters late Monday night, the DOH said: 

We would like to rectify the report on emerging hotspots in Metro Manila.   

The following cities were mistakenly classified as hotspots and was based on a report last month. We are thankful to report that, as of July 5, the mentioned cities show a significant decline in case growth, as follows:

      • Marikina: decreased by 68%
      • Muntinlupa: decreased by 10%
      • Makati: decreased by 4%

We are closely monitoring Quezon City which has shown an increase by 34%   

We apologize for the confusion. This is our up to date record. We will redouble our efforts to keep our reports as current as possible.

What did the first DOH report say? 

During a televised briefing on Monday afternoon, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said Metro Manila showed a “notable” increase in COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks.

She identified the following cities as emerging hot spots:

  • Marikina City: 51 cases – 43.47% growth rate
  • Muntinlupa City: 30 cases – 35.16% growth rate
  • Quezon City: 406 cases – 34.5% growth rate
  • Makati City: 135 cases – 30.18% growth rate

It turned out the data was from June. 

Metro Manila has been under general community quarantine (GCQ) for more than a month now after President Rodrigo Duterte again extended GCQ for the capital region on June 30 which willl last until July 15. 

GCQ is a form of quarantine with more relaxed measures compared to the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). (READ: EXPLAINER: What happens under general community quarantine?)

On Monday morning, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that the government would have no choice but to put more areas under lockdown again if COVID-19 cases could not be contained. (READ: ‘No alternative’ but lockdown if rising coronavirus cases continue, says Roque)

The spike in cases comes just as the country is pressed to restart the economy after remaining on lockdown for over 3 months. (READ: Philippine coronavirus cases surpass 46,000, as infections continue to increase)

‘Still manageable’

In the same press briefing, Vergeire said that while the country’s COVID-19 cases continue to rise, the country’s case doubling time (CDT) – or the time it takes for the number of cases to double – is still at 7.95 days. 

The case doubling time in our country now is still longer than a week, and entails that the national situation is still manageable,” Vergeire said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Vergeire said Metro Manila and neighboring regions also showed a notable increase as cases have been rising in the past two weeks. Meanwhile, the DOH noted cases in Western Visayas seemed to be decreasing, but that this still needs to be sustained.

According to Vergeire, the government is closely monitoring Metro Manila and the province of Cebu because of the clustering of cases.

“Sa Cebu may nakita po tayong 64 barangays with clustering of cases. Samantalang, sa National Capital Region naman po may nakita po tayo na 314 barangays with clustering of cases,” Vergeire said. (In Cebu province, we saw 64 barangays with clustering of cases while we saw 314 barangays in the National Capital Region.)

With the increase of cases, Vergeire reiterated for the public to follow minimum health standards like wearing a mask, practicing physical distancing, and frequent hand washing need to be followed despite the easing of quarantine protocols. (READ: As coronavirus cases rise, DOH reiterates: Stay home, follow health protocols)

As of Monday, the Philippines recorded 46,333 cases of COVID-19 infections, including 1,303 deaths and 12,185 recoveries. –


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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.