80% drop in firecracker-related injuries vs 5-year average

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Department of Health (DOH) recorded 139 firecracker-related injuries nationwide as the country welcomed 2019, 80% lower than the 5-year average.

In a news briefing Tuesday, January 1, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said that the injuries were recorded from December 21, 2018, to January 1, 2019.

“I am very glad to report to you that today, we have a 68% decline in the number of fireworks-related incidents from December 21, 2018 to January 1, 2019 and that is as of 6 am, compared to 428 during same period last year,” Duque said in a press conference held at the East Avenue Medical Center in Quezon City.

Duque was comparing the number of cases as of January 1 to the 428 cases recorded from December 21, 2017, to January 5, 2018.

Last year, the DOH recorded 191 fireworks-related injuries on January 1, 2018. Compared to the numbers on January 1, 2019, the reduction in cases is at 27%.

Duque said the drop in the number of cases was partly attributed to heavy rain caused by Tropical Depression Usman, which dumped large volumes of rainfall in parts of Luzon and the Visayas in just two days.

“Nature this time took the side of the DOH, which means that it has been raining the past several days unrelentingly and I think this also contributed to a substantive reduction in fireworks-related injuries,” he said.

Breakdown of cases: Majority of the cases were seen in the National Capital Region (NCR) with 53 cases. This was followed by Western Visayas with 26 cases, Central Visays with 13, and Central Luzon and Clabarzon with 10 cases each.

Meanwhile, firecrackers that caused the most injuries were kwitis with 30 cases; boga, 16; piccolo, 15; luces, 8; and 5-star and triangle, 7 each.

Duque said most cases also occured on the streets with 73 cases recorded, followed by cases at home with 59 recorded, 5 in "other" areas, and two from designated fireworks display areas. 

Duque said the DOH anticipated the number of cases to increase until the end of monitoring on January 5, as the department had not yet received reports from  several regions.

Most additional injuries, he said, may arise form children picking up unexploded firecrackers on the streets.

The DOH said as of morning of January 1, there were no reports of injuries or deaths from stray bullets, and no deaths reported due to firecrackers or fireworks ingestion.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) said it arrested two people for illegal discharge of firearms for the New Year – down from the 6 people the police arrested going into 2018.

The PNP added that incidents of illegal discharge of firearms went down to just one this year, compared to 7 last year.

"Overall, our celebration of New Year's eve yesterday was generally safer and peaceful," PNP spokesman Chief Superintendent Benigno Durana Jr said in a mix of English and Filipino on Tuesday, January 1, over radio dzBB.

Big drop: The drop in cases is notable as it comes as the DOH added 10 more hospitals to its monitoring this year, for a total of 60 “sentinel sites” for monitoring nationwide.

They include 32 DOH hospitals, 4 local government unit hospitals, 13 private hospitals, and UP-PGH, a government hospital.

Sites added to the DOH’s monitoring for 2018 were Don Mariano C. Verzosa Memorial Hospital, Southern Isabela General Hospital, Manila East Medical Center, Ospital ng Palawan, Iloilo Mission Hospital, Western Visayas Sanitarium, South Cotabato Provincial Hospital, St Elizabeth Hospital, Sulu Provincial Hospital, and the Far North Luzon General Hospital and Training Center.

Apart from heavy rain brought by Usman, Duque once again said the downward trend continued due to President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order (EO) No. 28, which prohibits residential and personal use of fireworks and other pyrotechnic devices and shifts to community display of fireworks at designated areas.

Surveillance of fireworks-related injuries will end on January 5. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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