DOH: Surge in COVID-19 cases to continue in coming weeks
MANILA, Philippines — The record high daily COVID-19 cases last week despite the hard lockdown in Metro Manila and other areas are expected to continue in the coming weeks, health authorities warned.
It would take two to three weeks after the end of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) on Aug. 20 before the hoped-for decline in daily new cases could be seen, according to the Department of Health (DOH).
The DOH said the latest surge was driven mainly by the Delta variant, which an infected person could transfer to as many as eight others in one interaction because many people still go out and of the complacency in observing public health protocols during the ECQ.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a briefing on Monday that a DOH analysis showed 39 percent more mobility of people during the current ECQ in Metro Manila compared to the previous ECQ in March last year and March to April this year.
On Monday, the DOH reported 14,610 new COVID-19 cases, the third highest daily count since the pandemic started.
This brought the total confirmed COVID-19 cases to 1,755,846. Of these, 1,618,808 have recovered, including 10,674 who were tagged as recovered on Monday.
The DOH also reported 27 more deaths due to COVID-19, including 22 who were previously tagged as recoveries. The country’s COVID-19 death toll now stood at 30,366.
The DOH said 23 percent of the 58,471 individuals tested on Aug. 14 were found positive for the virus.
In the latest batch of 338 random COVID-19 samples analyzed during the weekend, nearly half were of the Delta variant.
The genome sequencing also detected the first Lambda variant case, a 35-year-old pregnant woman from Western Visayas.
Still, health experts said they considered the Delta variant to be a bigger concern.
According to Cynthia Saloma, executive director of the Philippine Genome Center (PGC), the number of Delta variant cases in the country has been rapidly increasing since May when it was first detected in a few returning overseas Filipinos.
She said that from 72 Delta cases in June, the figure jumped to 721 in July, or 42.41 percent of samples submitted to the PGC.
The Philippines might also allow a third or booster shot of the vaccine in 2022, said Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., National Task Force Against COVID-19 chief, citing experts’ opinions on vaccine interval.
Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion, meanwhile, urged local governments to fully vaccinate 70 to 80 percent of their population in order to prevent a longer lockdown.
Concepcion pushed for creating workplace “bubbles” for fully vaccinated individuals to help businesses recover.
As other countries considered giving a booster dose especially for immunocompromised individuals, Galvez said this remained “forbidden” at this time when a big portion of the Philippine population still had to be vaccinated.
As of Sunday, he said 12 million Filipinos, or only 17 percent of the target eligible population, were fully protected.
“Our experts are saying that boosters almost have no effect if the spacing (or interval from when the second dose was given) is too narrow. It has to be nine to 12 months, (so) during the first month of 2022, during the first quarter,” Galvez said.
—WITH A REPORT FROM MARICAR CINCO
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