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MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines is again deemed “high risk” for COVID-19 as the number of cases climbs anew, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Monday, January 3.
“Nationally, we are now high risk case classification from low risk in the previous week, showing a positive two-week growth rate at 222% and moderate average daily attack rate (ADAR) at 1.07 per 1,000 individuals,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a press briefing.
The ADAR is the number of new cases in an area over a two-week period, divided by the population of the area. An ADAR that is less than one means low risk for COVID-19.
The last time the Philippines was placed under high risk case classification was from August to October 2021, when the country was experiencing a spike in cases due to the highly transmissible Delta variant.
The DOH also confirmed Octa Research findings on Saturday, January 1, that virus epicenter Metro Manila is back at “high risk” classification.
Vergeire said an increase in positivity rate was seen across all regions. Nationally, the positivity rate has reached 10.8%, while Metro Manila’s positivity rate has jumped to 19.4%. The positivity rate is the percentage of all COVID-19 tests performed that turn out positive.
The World Health Organization set a 5% positivity rate benchmark for entering the new normal. This, however, should be maintained for at least two weeks in order for governments to consider reopening.
The spike in cases comes as the Philippines recorded a total of 14 cases of the Omicron variant, with three of these local cases. Experts have said that Omicron is the most transmissible coronavirus variant, so far.
The DOH earlier said there is a “high possibility” of local transmission of Omicron in the country.
In a Rappler Talk interview on Friday, December 31, infectious disease specialist Dr. Rontgene Solante said that “most likely,” the Philippines is already experiencing an Omicron-driven surge. He said one Omicron case can infect up to 16 people.
Despite the sudden increase in cases, healthcare utilization in the country remains “low risk.” Notably, however, hospital admissions in Metro Manila rose to 24.45% as of January 1, from 17% on December 24.
Though over 90% of the eligible population in Metro Manila have been fully vaccinated, the government failed to meet its target of inoculating 70% of the nationwide population of 110 million in 2021.
Following the detection of the three local Omicron cases, Metro Manila was placed under Alert Level 3 from January 3 to 15. Under Alert Level 3, some establishments are allowed to operate at 30% indoor venue capacity only for fully vaccinated individuals and 50% outdoor venue capacity, provided that all employees are fully vaccinated.
The DOH urged the public to continue following minimum public health standards and to get vaccinated or get their booster shots. – Rappler.com