WHO: Virus surge in PH ‘inevitable’

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    A TOP official of the World Health Organization in the Philippines yesterday said the surge in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the country was “inevitable” due to the mass gatherings during the holiday season and the feast of the Black Nazarene in Manila last Saturday.

    In a televised public briefing, WHO Representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said the deadly virus was transmitted during the mass gatherings because physical distancing was neglected.

    “We have been working with the DOH to keep people informed on the need to follow physical distancing and other protocols to minimize this risk of transmission,” said Abeyasinghe. “These kinds of close contacts will give rise to the transmission of the virus and infection of more people. It is inevitable for the Philippines to see an increase in cases.”

    The independent OCTA Research Team echoed the pronouncements of Abeyasinghe, saying the numbers in the National Capital Region are pointing to that direction. OCTA said the reproduction rate of the virus in NCR is now at 1.17 from just 1.6 the other day.

    “Given the reality of an uptick in cases following the increase in mobility and social gatherings during the holiday as well as the impact of super spreader events, such as the celebration of the Black Nazarene, there is a real possibility of a significant surge in COVID-19 cases in the NCR in the next few weeks, which is similar to the current outbreaks experienced in Europe and the US,” OCTA said.

    “There is a clear upward trend now. And if this upward trend continues, the local governments will need to implement measures to reverse this direction before the pandemic gets out of hand,” it added.

    The Department of Health admitted that cases have increased in recent days but added it needs more time to determine if is the projected post-holiday surge.

    Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the DOH needs to be certain that the increase in cases was not due to the fact that all laboratories are back to normal operations after the holiday break.

    Vergeire said they are concerned with the possible effects of the Traslacion in Manila over the weekend, where many devotees disregarded physical distancing protocols.

    “We think this might aggravate our situation if ever we see an increase in cases. Maybe towards the end of January we can see if really the cases have increased because of this event,” said Vergeire.

    The DOH reported 1,524 new COVID cases yesterday, raising the number of infections in the country to 491,258.

    Davao City had 137 new cases, followed by Quezon City (109), Rizal (92), Davao del Norte (53), and Cebu City (51).

    Among the confirmed cases, 139 more succumbed to the deadly virus, raising the number of fatalities to 9,554 for a case fatality rate of 1.94 percent.

    There were 44 more recoveries, meaning the number of survivors has risen to 458,172.

    Less the deaths and recoveries, the DOH said there are 23,532 active cases. Of the active cases, 85.1 percent are mild cases, 5.7 percent are critical cases, 5.5 percent are asymptomatic cases, 3.2 percent are severe cases, and 0.54 percent are moderate cases.

    The Department of Foreign Affairs said 34 more overseas Filipinos have contracted the deadly virus, raising the number of infected Filipinos abroad to 13,056.

    The DFA said its embassies and consulates reported no new death among overseas Filipinos. The current death toll among overseas Filipinos due to the virus stood at 935 after one new fatality on Monday.

    OCTA is particularly concerned with a big surge in COVID cases in Marikina City.

    The research team said Marikina has seen increase in cases to 25 per day from January 4 to 10 as compared to 11 cases per day from December 28 to January 3, and 13 cases per day from December 21 to 27.

    Quezon City continued to register the highest number of average COVID-19 cases per day during the past week with 76, followed by Manila with 46, and Pasig with 29.

    Having the highest attack rate, or the proportion of people who got hit with COVID-19 in a population, in Metro Manila is Makati City with 4.05, followed by Pasay City with 3.97, and Pateros with 3.91.

    The OCTA team noted that Pateros has the highest hospital occupancy in the NCR with 67 percent, followed by Makati with 59 percent, and Quezon City with 52 percent. – With Ashzel Hachero