COVID-19 cases rising, but not yet due to holiday surge – DOH | Inquirer News
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COVID-19 cases rising, but not yet due to holiday surge – DOH

/ 05:00 AM January 13, 2021

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire. INQUIRER file photo / EDWIN BACASMAS

MANILA, Philippines — Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire on Tuesday cautioned against making conclusions at this time about a surge in COVID-19 cases due to Christmas and New Year gatherings.

Vergeire said cases had been rising in the past four days compared with the seven-day moving average during the holiday season, but this might have something to do with a 30 percent decrease in laboratory outputs during that time.

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“It is only now that the functions of the laboratories are normalizing and this might have some effect on the number of reported cases. We want to look [at the numbers] for another week so that we can have a more accurate conclusion on the trends of cases here,” she said in a press briefing in Malacañang.

Not till mid-January

On Monday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque told a press briefing that the rise in coronavirus infections to more than 1,900 in the last three weeks indicated a holiday surge in COVID-19 cases.

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Earlier, however, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told reporters that it would not be until mid-January that the Department of Health (DOH) could tell if the Christmas and New Year celebrations had led to more coronavirus transmission.

On Tuesday, Vergeire also said it would only be after two weeks when officials would be able to see if the celebration of the Feast of the Black Nazarene on Jan. 9 had led to more infections.

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has an incubation period of 14 days, she said.

During the Black Nazarene feast, thousands of devotees massed up outside Quiapo Church in Manila and many violated the physical-distancing rule.

Rabindra Abeyasinghe, the World Health Organization (WHO)  representative to the Philippines, said on Tuesday that the lack of physical distancing during the holiday season and the Feast of the Black Nazarene could have given rise to the infection of more people.

“This kind of close contact will give rise for further transmission of the virus, for further infection of more people. So, it is inevitable that the Philippines is going to see an increase of cases,” Abeyasinghe said at a news briefing.

The WHO continues to advocate for the early identification of cases and contact tracing to prevent the further transmission of the virus, he said.

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The DOH logged 1,524 additional coronavirus infections on Tuesday, bringing the overall number of  confirmed COVID-19 cases to 491,258.

It said 44 more patients had recovered, raising the total number of COVID-19 survivors to 458,172. But the death toll rose to 9,554 with the deaths of 139 more patients.

The deaths and recoveries left the country with 23,532 active cases, of which 85.1 percent were mild, 5.5 percent asymptomatic, 0.54 percent moderate, 3.2 percent severe, and 5.7 percent critical.

Travel ban

Also on Tuesday, Malacañang added China, Pakistan, Jamaica, Luxembourg and Oman to its list of countries to which the Philippines had temporarily shut its borders to prevent the entry into the country of the new coronavirus variant.

Roque said the travel ban on the five countries had been recommended by the DOH and the Department of Foreign Affairs. The ban takes effect at midnight on Wednesday and will last up to Friday.

Filipinos coming from the five countries will still be allowed to enter the country, Roque said, but they will have to be quarantined for 14 days regardless of the results of their COVID-19 tests.

Earlier, the government imposed a travel ban, also ending Friday, on Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Lebanon, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States.

Infections with the coronavirus variant have been  reported in these countries.

With reports from Patricia Denise M. Chiu and Jerome Aning

For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

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