DOH warns of possible COVID-19 surge by May due to neglected health standards
MANILA, Philippines —The Department of Health (DOH) is seeing a possible rise in COVID-19 cases due to the declining compliance of Filipinos to minimum public health standards (MPHS), warning that a 50-percent decrease in this compliance may lead to nearly “half a million” active infections in National Capital Region (NCR) by mid-May.
“Numbers do not lie. The good news is, at this point, these are all still projections. We can still avert these estimates in favor of better scenarios. We can all do our part to help stop transmission and mutation of the virus if we are to keep wearing our best fitted masks, isolating when sick, doubling protection through vaccines and up to date boosters, and ensuring good airflow,” Health Undersecretary and Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a statement released by the DOH Thursday.
“These will go a long way to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our entire community from the harm that is COVID-19,” she added.
While the country may have seen lower number of cases from March to April, Filipinos have been complying less with the MPHS—seven percent less nationwide and by 12 percent less in the NCR—during the same period, according to the Susceptible-Exposed-Infectious-Recovered with Vaccination and Reinfection (SVEIR) model used by the sub-Technical Working Group on Data Analytics (sTWG DA) and the Feasibility Analysis of Syndromic Surveillance using Spatio-temporal Epidemiological Modeler for Early Detection of Diseases (FASSSTER) Team.
“The sTWG DA and FASSSTER analysts determined that decreases in MPHS compliance could translate to large increases in the number of active cases,” the DOH said.
The DOH cited disease models which showed that a 20-percent decrease in MPHS compliance nationwide could result in 34,788 active cases in mid-May, 564 of which are severe while 267 are critical.
Meanwhile, a 30-percent decrease in MPHS compliance “might bring the cases up further to as high as 300,000 over the same time period,” according to the DOH.
“This figure is higher than the largest recorded number of active cases at 291,618 during the peak of the Omicron wave in January 2022,” it added.
‘Half a million’ active cases
“Within NCR, estimates showed that a 50% decrease in MPHS compliance may lead to around 25,000 to 60,000 new cases per day, bringing the number of NCR active cases to almost half a million by mid-May – more than three times higher than the active cases during the Omicron wave’s peak,” the DOH warned.
Analysts, however, said that “the number of active cases nationwide could decrease and then plateau from 26,256 as of April 12 to just around 1,293 to 16,934 in mid-May” if Filipinos will strictly observe minimum health protocols on top of getting fully vaccinated and being up to date with their booster shot and “assuming no new variant of concern comes in,” according to the DOH.
“The same drop in severe and critical cases will also be seen, given those conditions. Unless those in NCR improve their compliance with MPHS, the capital could still see an increase in active cases even as other areas will see a decrease,” it added.
New variant threat
The DOH, meanwhile, cited another model from the Australian Tuberculosis Modelling Network (AuTuMN) Team, which estimates that the “introduction of a new variant that is two times more transmissible than Omicron (with the ability to escape immunity) may lead to a peak in ICU admissions in NCR of around 2,418 cases.”
“This can occur as early as mid-May 2022,” the DOH said.
This peak, the DOH noted, is 2.6 times higher than the 666 admissions last seen in January 2022, and 8.6 times higher than the current 253 admissions.
“Throughout the pandemic, NCR had at most 1,649 available ICU beds for COVID. This estimated ICU admission will fully occupy these ICU beds and potentially overwhelm our health systems and critical care capacities,” the DOH said.
“Lowering transmission will lessen the possibility of emergence of new variants, while high coverage of both primary series and booster doses will greatly contribute to a high defense wall against infection and severe disease,” it added.
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