A year into the pandemic, COVID-19 cases in the country continue to rise, even reaching the same peak level from July 2020, an official from the Department of Health (DOH) said.
“I think a week ago, I was flagging that the number of cases getting ill in the past weeks were almost at the peak of last year. Yesterday it’s now at the same peak,” Dr Alethea de Guzman, OIC Director III of the DOH Epidemiology Bureau said during a virtual press briefing on Wednesday, March 17.
“Ibig sabihin kung gaano karami ‘yung nagiging pinakamataas na dami ng pagkakasakit (This means the highest number of patients who were ill) last July, now it’s at the same,” De Guzman added.
The Philippines has been reporting around 4,000 cases in the past days, even hitting 5,404 new infections on Monday, March 15 – the 4th highest single-day tally in the country since the pandemic began.
“Noong simula ng Enero, nag rereport lang tayo ng around 1,000 cases. Napansin ‘nyo naman po siguro na we’re reporting 3,000 cases on the average (Back in early January, we were reporting around 1,000 cases. You’ve noticed we’re now reporting 3,000 cases on the average). What we were reporting in the first two weeks of March were 2.5x times higher than in January,” De Guzman said.
The spike in cases comes following the detection of a new COVID-19 variant in the Philippines called P3.
Though health officials said it was “not identified as a variant of concern (VOC)” yet, Philippine Genome Center executive director Cynthia Saloma said P3 might also be more transmissible than the original version of the SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Saloma cited the presence of the mutation N501Y in the P3 variant, which is linked to increased transmissibility. This mutation is also present in the VOCs, such as the United Kingdom variant (B117), South Africa variant (B1351), and Brazil variant (P1), which have all reached the country.
The presence of the E484K mutation in P3 is also a concern as it dodges a person’s immune system, but Saloma said that further studies are still needed.
Experts studying the coronavirus outbreak in the country said that cases in the Philippines could hit 8,000 daily by the end of March.
The Octa Research team said the reproduction number (R) – or the number of people that one COVID-19 positive case can infect – in the country is now at 1.9.
Experts have said the goal is to keep the R below 1 to contain virus transmission until a COVID-19 vaccine becomes widely available.
The DOH earlier said the spike in cases “cannot be solely attributed” to the new variants, adding that an “underlying cause” of why the country is experiencing a spike in cases is the public’s “non-compliance” with health protocols.
‘Majority of cases occurring at home’
During Wednesday’s briefing, De Guzman said most of the cases occurred at home.
“Majority are occurring at homes. Dahil sa bahay magkakasama, kumakain, matulog, manood ng TV (Because at home, everyone’s together, eating, sleeping, or watching TV) and we do recreation as a family. Pero ang isa natin gustong ipaabot na mayroon din tayong clustering of cases sa workplace, (But what we would like to point out is that we also have a clustering of cases in the workplace),” De Guzman said.
The government on Monday also called on the public to wear face masks at home.
Exactly a year on Wednesday, the entire island of Luzon was placed on lockdown in a bid to control the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
Despite having one of the longest and harshest lockdown in the world, the Philippines’ COVID-19 cases continue to rise, with 4,387 new infections and pushed country’s total caseload to 635,698.
The pandemic has claimed over 12,000 lives in the Philippines and ushered in the country’s worst recession since World War II. The Philippines is projected to suffer the worst economic downturn in Southeast Asia.
Local governments in virus epicenter Metro Manila have agreed to enforce earlier curfew hours – from 10 pm to 5 am – in the region starting March 15, while some areas in the capital region were placed under localized lockdown. – Rappler.com