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Health exec: Too early to say NCR Covid-19 situation improving



The Department of Health (DoH) on Friday agreed with statisticians that the Covid-19 case trend in Metro Manila has been “plateauing,” but held back in saying that the situation has improved.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire noted that the Covid-19 tally in the region does not reflect the situation on the ground as some cases remain unreported or undetected.

“Cases have been increasing at a slower pace and we are seeing a plateau in the National Capital Region,” Vergeire said in a televised briefing. “But we also need to look at the limitations in our situation amid the detection of the Omicron variant.”

“Many are still using antigen tests and many were not tested and just opted to undergo isolation,” she added.

Vergeire, who is also spokesperson of the DoH, also said that the government is looking at various factors before declaring that Covid-19 cases have been decreasing in an area.

These include positivity rate or the percentage of individuals who yield positive Covid-19 results among those who were tested, she added.

The DoH official also appealed to Metro Manila residents to remain compliant with health protocols such as mask wearing and physical distancing even if independent researchers had suggested that cases in the region would decline in the coming weeks.

The virus’s reproduction rate in Metro Manila dropped to just 1.79 this week from 4.24 last week, said Guido David, a University of the Philippines professor who has been monitoring pandemic figures in the country for nearly two years.

David said the supposed “downward trajectory” of cases in Metro Manila was similar to the South Africa experience of a “rapid surge followed by a dramatic decrease in infections.”

One Hospital Command Center, the state-run healthcare referral network linked with hospitals and quarantine facilities, also observed a slight improvement in Metro Manila’s health care utilization rates.

“Our health care utilization rates remain at moderate risk, but we saw a minimal decrease over the past week,” said Marylaine Padlan, medical officer at the One Hospital Command Center.

Outside of the capital region, though, hospital occupancy rates have been increasing.

Padlan cited Eastern Visayas, in which health care utilization rates were at high risk.

Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Cordillera Administrative Region, Bicol Region, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Davao Region, and Caraga have also been seeing a spike. The said regions, however, remain at moderate risk.

The increasing number of Covid-19 cases and health care utilization rates in some areas have prompted the government to escalate Kalinga, Ifugao, Mountain Province, and Northern Samar to alert level 4 starting Friday until the end of the month.

Prior to the announcement, the four provinces were placed under a more lenient alert level 3.

The government also reclassified 15 provinces from alert level 2 to alert level 3, which will take effect during the same period.

These were Apayao, Puerto Princesa City, Masbate, Siquijor, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay, Lanao del Norte, Davao de Oro, Davao Oriental, North Cotabato, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat, Surigao del Norte, Maguindanao, and Basilan.