Surge in COVID cases in Metro starting: DOH

    A street in Manila empty during the height of the lockdown (PHOTO BY REUTERS)

    THE Department of Health (DOH) yesterday said the surge in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Metro Manila is already manifesting ahead of the Christmas and New Year’s Day celebrations.

    In a virtual press briefing, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said: “We recognize that the beginning of the surge is already evident. We can see it already. We have observed the increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases, which means that the attack rate and 2-week growth rate is already rising.”

    Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said they have also observed the plateauing of cases “in other cities. It means that the cases are no longer decreasing.”

    “This is a warning signal for us to start focusing and have strict monitoring among all cities in the NCR,” Vergeire said.

    Of the 17 local government units in Metro Manila, Duque said 12 are registering reproduction rates (R naught) that are greater than 1.

    Vergeire also said that 8 of the 17 have also been seeing positive two-week growth rates.

    The DOH has yet to release a list of the said Metro Manila areas as of press time.

    Duque yesterday said the decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to require the wearing of face shield and face mask when in public areas was based on science and is intended to provide more protection against the virus.

    “We are guided by science and evidence. Our experts and scientists have been saying that the use of face masks, face shields, and observing physical distancing, there will be 99 percent protection or risk reduction,” said Duque.

    The IATF, through Resolution No. 88, has mandated all persons to wear full coverage face shields together with face masks whenever they go out of their residences. Previously, the IATF only required the use of face shields when riding public transportation or when entering establishments like shopping malls, groceries, and pharmacies.

    Duque appealed to the public to follow the latest guidelines to stop the spread of the virus.

    “Let us not get tired of following protocols because the COVID-19 does not know how to get tired. It does not take a vacation despite being Christmas and New Year,” he said, adding: “The threat of COVID-19 is continuous. And if we don’t follow minimum health standards, our families will be put to risk.”


    But during the first day of the nine-day Simbang Gabi novena masses, policemen recorded violations by churchgoers of the newly-imposed health protocol.

    Joint Task Force COVID Shield commander Lt. Gen. Cesar Binag, also the PNP deputy chief for operations, said the violators were just reminded by policemen, who were deployed at the church premises, to wear their face shields.

    Overall, Binag said the preparation of the PNP and church officials was very good in terms of the implementation of health protocols.

    Binag encouraged church officials to put up tents, saying social distancing may be sacrificed if it rains while the mass was ongoing.

    “Our request to the church is to put up tents because if it rains, everyone may go inside church. If it rains, you cannot prevent the people from going inside,” he said.

    Peace and order wise, Binag said yesterday’s Simbang Gabi and the anticipated mass on Tuesday night was peaceful, except for the burning of a truck by communist rebels in Bukidnon on Tuesday night.

    PNP chief Gen. Debold Sinas said the Simbang Gabi was generally peaceful and orderly.

    “Everything went well on Day 1, we expect it to be better on Day 2, and perhaps even perfectly best in the rest of the nine days until Christmas and through the New Year,” said Sinas.

    Citing a report from the PNP Command Center, Sinas said: “As reported by all PROs (police regional offices), no significant incident was monitored in relation to Simbang Gabi.”

    Sinas also said physical distancing and the 30 percent maximum capacity inside church were strictly observed. – With Victor Reyes