DOH: Virus surge to fully manifest by mid-January

    Residents of San Juan undergo free swab testing. FILE PHOTO BY ROLLY SALVADOR

    THE Department of Health yesterday advised the public to prepare for the expected post-holiday surge in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases that it said will fully manifest by the middle of this month.

    In a virtual press briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said: “If and when this surge happens, it will be seen by mid-January. This is when all cases will come out because all laboratories will be fully functional already.”

    She said the number of cases in recent days is not the real numbers as many laboratories shut down during the Christmas and New Year holidays.

    “We hope we are wrong but, if ever, we will be able to note this by the middle of January,” she added.

    On Monday, 959 new COVID cases were reported that raised the total number of infections in the country to 478,761. On Sunday, the DOH reported 891 new cases.

    Vergeire said the DOH suspended the license of one laboratory last December 29 because of its non-compliance to the agency’s reportorial requirements. She refused to identify the laboratory but described it as “one of the big laboratories” accredited by the DOH.

    “We are only enforcing the provisions of the law,” said Vergeire.

    She also attributed the lower number of new cases to the public’s decision to forego testing during the holidays.

    “The number of cases we are reporting per day really went down. We have a decrease of 5 percent in our daily numbers for positive cases,” Vergeire said.

    “From the recent numbers, we were averaging a total of 36,000 laboratory submissions per day. It went down to 22,000 for the holiday season,” she added.

    Last December, the DOH said the country should be prepared for a sharp spike of COVID cases after the holidays due to the increased mobility of people.

    Over the weekend, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the post-holiday surge is starting to manifest, particularly in the National Capital Region.

    Quezon City had the highest number of new cases Monday, followed y Davao City (70), Rizal (58), Agusan Del Sur (44), and Laguna (41).

    Six more patients succumbed to the deadly virus, raising the number of fatalities to 9,263, a case fatality rate of 1.93 percent.

    There were 26 more recoveries, meaning the total number of survivors has risen to 448,279. The DOH said this means that 93.6 percent of COVID patients have recovered.

    The DOH said there are 21,219 active cases, accounting for 4.4 percent of COVID cases in the country. Of the active cases, 81.7 percent are mild cases, 7.9 percent are asymptomatic cases, 6.4 percent are critical cases, 3.4 percent are severe cases, and 0.57 percent are moderate cases.

    The Department of Foreign Affairs said 37 more overseas Filipinos were infected with the deadly virus, bringing the total number to 12,929. There were also 23 more deaths, raising the number of overseas fatalities to 934 and three more recoveries.

    Vergeire said four other laboratories face possible suspensions due to non-compliance with the DOH’s requirements.

    She reiterated the DOH’s appeal to all accredited laboratories to submit complete reports for COVID-19 testing on time.

    “We like to remind all facilities that even though we are in a pandemic, if you can’t help us, we cannot allow you to continue your operations. These are requirements for your license to be sustained,” she said.

    There are 154 licensed RT-PCR laboratories and 45 accredited GeneXpert laboratories across the country.

    Meanwhile, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno said city residents who refuse to be tested for the virus on their return from vacation may face criminal charges.

    Moreno issued the warning as he appealed to city residents to avail of the free tests being administered by the city government.

    “If you test positive, rest assured that we will take care of you, “ Moreno said on ANC’s HeadStart.

    Moreno assured returning residents of a comfortable stay in quarantine facilities – which are air-conditioned, have free Wifi and food – while waiting for their test results.

    A number of Philippine Military Academy cadets, military and civilian personnel have contracted the deadly virus and are now under isolation, the Baguio City-based academy reported Monday.

    PMA spokeswoman Maj. Cherryl Tindog said the first cases at the academy were identified after a recent mass RT-PCR testing among PMA cadets and personnel.

    “It is with deep concern that the Academy confirms the positive COVID-19 cases among the cadets and its military and civilian personnel,” Tindog said but did not divulge the exact numbers.

    “Though the Cadet Corps of the AFP has been isolated as one bubble from the outside world by cancelling contact activities and employing online mode of instructions, still there is no fool proof system. One way or another a leak to the bubble can occur from day to day activities of the whole community. Thus, the need for mass testing,” said Tindog.

    Tindog said the positive cases were promptly reported to the Baguio City government, adding that patients from the PMA are currently being attended to by concerned authorities.

    Tindog said the academy has also quarantined other personnel who have been in close contact with the infected cadets and military and civilian personnel and has disinfected “affected areas.” – With Ashzel Hachero and Victor Reyes