Philippines back to COVID-19 'high risk'

Over a week after classifying the Philippines under "moderate risk" for COVID-19, the Department of Health (DOH) on Monday, August 9, said the country is now back to the "high risk" category.

This is due to an increase in infections driven by the Delta variant, the DOH said.

This comes as virus epicenter Metro Manila is on its third day of the strictest form of lockdown, called the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), which will run until August 20. Other areas such as Laguna, Iloilo City, and Cagayan de Oro, are also on lockdown until August 15.

The highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 has now been detected in all 16 cities of Metro Manila and its lone municipality of Pateros. Meanwhile, it has been detected in 13 regions in the country.

The fact that Delta is now regarded as the "fastest and the fittest" variant of SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19 also gives reason to assume there are more cases than what is currently being reported. If the original virus can infect about three people, and the Alpha variant can infect some four to five, Delta can infect up to eight people. 

On Saturday, August 7, the Philippines logged 11,021 new coronavirus cases, the highest single-day tally since April 17.

The previous high of 11,101 cases in April was at height of the second COVID-19 surge and when Metro Manila and nearby areas were placed under their second rigid lockdown.

That surge, which was driven by more infectious variants and easing of mobility restrictions, crippled the Philippine healthcare system. Doctors said getting admitted in hospitals felt like a "lottery because a patient gets a bed because someone has died."

Rise in cases among all age groups

In a separate statement on Monday, the DOH said there was an overall 59% increase in cases among all age groups during the period of July 13 to 25 compared with July 26 to August 8.

"Among the age groups, the highest increase was observed among the 30-39 age group and lowest among those 80 years old and above during the same period," the agency said. The age group of 30-39 or the working age group is among those at risk of infection.

The DOH released the statement to allay fears of parents that children are now at high risk of getting COVID-19 infection.

"Naiintindihan po namin ang mga agam-agam at pangamba ng ating mga kababayan sa mga balitang lumalabas ngayon tungkol sa pagtaas ng kaso ng COVID-19 sa mga bata. Ngunit dapat ay liwanagan natin na itong pagtaas ng kaso ay nararamdaman sa lahat ng grupo at hindi lang sa mga bata," Vergeire said.

(We understand the fear of our countrymen over news reports that there have been increase in cases among children. However, we have to make it clear that the rise in cases is not just among children, bull all age groups.)

The health spokesperson said that local experts are now looking into the possibility of vaccinating minors aged 17 and below, but the government will stick to its priority groups for now due to limited supplies of COVID-19 vaccines.

As of August 7, the government has fully vaccinated 11.2 million individuals or 15.88% of the target eligible population for vaccination or 10.13% of the total population. – Rappler.com

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.

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