Health official notes declining cases may not reflect reality on ground
The Department of Health on Saturday said it is still too early to say if Metro Manila could deescalate to a more relaxed Alert Level 2 by February.
The independent monitoring group OCTA Research said Metro Manila’s average daily attack rate (ADAR) has dropped to 93.82 percent yesterday from 111.47 percent on Wednesday, but it remained on a “severe” level.
“We are monitoring this every day, but we cannot yet say if we can already deescalate by February here in the National Capital Region,” Health spokesperson Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.
The Department of Health earlier said the peak of the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, likely fueled by the Omicron variant, may happen by the end of January or the middle of February.
The Health department also ordered all regions and local governments nationwide to prepare for an increase in COVID-19 cases as four provinces—were escalated to Alert Level 4.
Vergeire said while the official active COVID-19 cases were declining, this may not reflect the actual situation on the ground as many cases remain unreported.
“Even if we think the cases are on a decline, it’s important to note that there are individuals who are not getting tests anymore, there are also those who take antigen tests but the result is not reported to DOH,” she said.
No self-administered antigen test kits have been registered with the Food and Drug Administration yet.
Vergeire said DOH is now drafting the guidelines on its proper use while the FDA is in the “final stages” of evaluating 11 applications from test kit manufacturers.
“The process starts when the FDA receives all of the documents. Their dossier is initially evaluated and passed on to RITM [Research Institute for Tropical Medicine]. Once it passes the initial screening, then RITM conducts performance evaluation or validation,” Vergeire said.
“This takes about four to five days with RITM and it will be returned to the FDA. So, all in all, the process can take up to seven days,” she added.
OCTA’s Dr. Guido David, for his part, said NCR had a “high” reproduction number at 1.38.
Reproduction rate refers to the number of people infected by one case. A reproduction number that is below 1 indicates that the transmission of the virus is slowing down.
As for ADAR, Baguio City also had a severe level at 152.65 percent. Other cities with very high ADAR include Iloilo City (71.62 percent), Cebu City (48.88 percent), Lapu-Lapu (44.20 percent), Tacloban (41.88 percent), Angeles City (37.53 percent), Lucena (31.45 percent), Davao City (30.82 percent), and Cagayan de Oro (27.74 percent).
The said cities also had a very high reproduction number, with Davao City being the highest at 4.04, David said.
Meanwhile, the government plans to expand its COVID-19 vaccination drive in pharmacies nationwide by mid-February.
Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje said the government is targeting to expand the vaccination drive to the rest of the National Capital Region, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon under Phase 2.
“Phase 3 nationwide may be [held] in the second week of February,” said Cabotaje, also the National Vaccination Operations Center chairperson.
She said 1,860 individuals aged 18 years old and above have received their booster shots since the vaccination drive began in seven pharmacies two days ago.
Pharmacies are allowed to administer COVID-19 booster shots to adults while clinics can administer both primary and booster doses.
The vaccination initially began in five pharmacies and two clinics in the NCR – Mercury Drug Quirino Avenue, Malate, Manila; Southstar Drug Marikina; Watsons at SM Center Pasig; Generika Drugstore in Signal 1, Taguig; The Generics Pharmacy in Barangay Sun Valley, Parañaque; QualiMed Clinic McKinley Road, Makati; and Healthway Manila clinic in Ermita.
“Vaccination in pharmacies and clinics will be free for the entire week of the pilot run,” Cabotaje said.