MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) has strongly urged at least 18 areas under Alert Level 3 to ready their hospitals for a possible surge in coronavirus cases.
In a press briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire listed 18 out of 99 areas under Alert Level 3 that saw trends which mimicked Metro Manila’s spike in infections. But unlike the capital region, they had much lower vaccination rates.
“Those with low vaccination rates will need to prepare their hospital capacity,” Vergeire said on Tuesday, January 18.
The 18 areas with vaccination rates lower than 40% and were flagged by the DOH were the following:
In recent weeks, the Philippines has witnessed skyrocketing infections fueled by the highly transmissible Omicron variant and increased gatherings during the holiday season. Daily case tallies continued to hover in the 20,000s to 30,000s – with several single-day counts shattering records previously set during the surge fueled by the Delta variant in mid-2021.
Metro Manila has so far accounted for the most number of new cases in past weeks, but the DOH warned that similar increases were now being seen across all regions in the country. Health officials earlier described the increase in all other regions as “very swift,” with cases at least eight to nine times higher compared to about a month ago.
This included the nearby provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal which during the start of December saw an average of 153 cases per day, but by the end of the month were seeing some 1,400 cases per day.
Similar trends were also seen across areas in the Visayas and Mindanao, with hospitals already feeling the pressure of rising case counts case colliding with an increase in health workers infected with the virus.
Vergeire warned all regions to ready their resources, saying increases in nearby areas won’t be “isolated cases.”
“This affects all nearby regions,” she said in Filipino.
On top of reinforcing resources, the DOH advised regions to help contain the spread of COVID-19 by emphasizing and reiterating the importance of observing minimum health standards, activating telemedicine services, preparing isolation and quarantine facilities, and closely monitoring their residents with probable or confirmed cases of the virus.
All areas under Alert Level 2 should also quickly rev up vaccinations to help cushion the impact of a possible increase in cases. “Now is the right time to accelerate your vaccination [drives],” Vergeire said in Filipino of the following areas: