DOH flags increase in COVID-19 cases across Philippines

The Department of Health (DOH) on Monday, May 31, urged local governments to intensify efforts to respond to COVID-19 in their areas as cases across several areas in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao increased. 

In a Monday press briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the DOH observed an increase in cases in several areas over the past few days, with over 7,000 new cases logged daily nationwide in the past three days. 

“There has been a slowdown in the number of COVID-19 cases in the National Capital Region and nearby regions. In other places across Luzon, we have seen an increase in the spread and number of cases over the past two weeks. Visayas is also seeing a steady increase in cases while in Mindanao, cases are increasing quickly in Northern Mindanao, Davao Region, and Caraga,” Vergeire said in Filipino. 

Where cases are up

Aside from the areas listed above, the DOH is monitoring 12 regions where cases have been climbing. Among these 12, the following regions have seen an increase in positive growth rates:

  • Caraga
  • Mimaropa
  • Western Visayas 
  • Ilocos Region
  • Central Visayas 

Vergeire said both Ilocos Region and Central Visayas have seen growth rates become positive – rather than showing negative growth rates – in recent weeks. 

The average daily attack rate (ADAR) was also highest in Cagayan Valley, with 8.8 cases per 100,000 people. This was followed by the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) at 8.4, and Metro Manila at 3.11. 

The ADAR is the number of new cases in a city or province over a two-week period, divided by the population of the city or province. ADAR is considered high risk if it is 7 and above. The higher the ADAR of a place, the higher one's risk is of getting COVID-19.

The DOH had earlier flagged the increase in cases across Visayas and Mindanao in mid-May, when a steady uptick in cases had been seen. 

Vergeire said the DOH is beefing up its health capacity in areas seeing an increase in cases, and urged local governments to strengthen their PDITR strategies – the prevention, detection, isolation, treatment, and reintegration of COVID-19 cases. 

“We do not want to get to the point where we see what happened in NCR also happening in Visayas and Mindanao,” she said. Back in March, the DOH saw a record surge in cases as infections quickly increase in Metro Manila, battering hospitals

Stricter quarantine?

Vergeire said the government's coronavirus task force is expected to discuss the possibility of hiking quarantine restrictions in areas across the Philippines where increases in cases have been reported. 

Apart from community quarantine restrictions, Vergeire said local governments must also intensify contact tracing and cut down the time taken between detecting positive cases and moving such patients into isolation. 

“This is the most critical response or action we can do to break the chain of transmission,” she said.

The DOH also urged local officials to actively look into areas of their communities that can be placed on granular lockdowns to stem the spread of infections. 

For most of the pandemic, Metro Manila and nearby provinces had seen stricter community quarantine classifications, while majority of the country had been placed under more lenient quarantine protocols.

Vergeire said the increase in cases across different areas of the country was still driven by similar factors, such as increased mobility, compliance with minimum public health standards, and the amount of time taken to isolate positive cases after detection. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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