Malacañang said Monday an inter-agency task force leading the country’s COVID-19 response had “approved in principle” a “new normal” quarantine level for areas which have had no transmission of the respiratory disease for a while.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said, “This way, we will have hope that this COVID-19 pandemic has an end because although there is no vaccine yet, there are areas with no transmission.”
He said authorities were drawing up guidelines for these places, adding “if there is a new normal, they might suddenly have a rock concert. We will clarify that.:
The Philippines logged 2,163 new coronavirus infections on Monday, bringing the country’s cumulative total of COVID-19 cases to 502,736, the Department of Health reported.
The DOH said the tally does not include data from 4 laboratories that failed to submit their results on time.
Topping the list of areas with the most number of additional COVID-19 cases are Davao City with 134, Cagayan province with 100, Quezon City with 99, Leyte province with 93, and Cavite province with 75.
The DOH also reported 14 new COVID-related deaths, or a total of 9,909 fatalities, with total recoveries rising to 465,988, with only two recorded.
There are 26,839 active cases or 5.3 percent of the cumulative total.
Individuals vaccinated against COVID-19 may not be exempted yet from travel protocols set by the government as there is currently no sufficient data showing that the available vaccines can prevent virus transmission, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.
He made the statement during the House committee on health inquiry into the government’s COVID-19 vaccination program.
Duque said that while the available COVID-19 vaccines might prevent the occurrence of mild to severe symptoms of the disease, there was no sufficient evidence yet that they can prevent the transmission of the novel coronavirus from one person to another.
“Right now the policy of the IATF, based on the recommendation of our experts, is that they (vaccinated individuals) will continue to follow all these existing protocols,” he said.
Filipinos with medical emergencies arriving from countries with new COVID-19 variants are allowed to enter the Philippines as long as they follow strict pandemic protocols, said National Task Force spokesperson Retired Gen. Restituto Padilla.
The Philippines had extended until the end of the month a ban on travelers from 32 countries earlier included in the restriction to halt the spread of more contagious COVID-19 variants.
The Department of Health earlier recommended “a strict mandatory 14-day quarantine for travelers from countries” with reported cases of the new variant.
Filipino migrant workers are still discouraged to return home for vacation as they would have to undergo a strict 14-day quarantine, officials said.
The Department of Health said medical societies were looking into so-called long-haul effects of COVID-19 on patients in the country.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told a virtual briefing, citing “anecdotal reports, “They have long-term headache apparently. Others are saying they feel very tired. Some say they have pain in this part of the body after having it for so long already.”
Vergeire said “These are all purely anecdotal. But our specific societies in the country are also studying the long-haul effects of COVID. We will provide information once there are results.”
A study on the 6-month consequences of COVID-19 in patients was published by medical journal Lancet on Jan. 8, detailing how “COVID-19 survivors were mainly troubled with fatigue or muscle weakness, sleep difficulties, and anxiety or depression.”
The study was done in Wuhan, China, where COVID-19 is believed to have first originated in late 2019.
The number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines may reach 530,000 to 540,000 by the end of January, a group of independent researchers said Monday.
The country on Sunday breached a total of half a million coronavirus cases, with 24,691 active infections.
The tally may reach the higher number of forecast if the more contagious COVID-19 variant will spread in the country, said OCTA Research Team fellow Guido David.
David said Metro Manila was seeing an upward trend in its COVID-19 cases but still below the average 2,000 daily cases during the height of the pandemic.
The effect of the Feast of the Black Nazarene and the Sto. Niño may take 1 to 2 weeks before it manifests, he added.
Metro Manila’s coronavirus disease 2019 reproduction number is holding steady at 1.12 during the past week, experts from the OCTA Research Team said.
“[This] means that the trend in new COVID-19 cases in NCR, though still on an upward trend, has remained the same over the past week,” the researchers said in a report.
A reproduction number of one or higher indicates the continued spread of COVID-19.
The experts also said the National Capital Region registered an average of 430 new infections daily from January 10 to 16, which was 45 percent higher than the average recorded over the holiday season last year.
However, the positivity rate remained at four percent, below the World Health Organization’s five percent benchmark.
Kids in malls
A group of independent researchers opposed Monday a proposal to allow children aged 10 and above outside their homes to help revive the economy.
The Department of Trade and Industry last week said it supported the proposal of Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua to let more children and families out of their homes so that commercial establishments like malls would have more customers.
Children, however, will not contribute much to the economy as they are “not breadwinners,” said OCTA Research Team fellow Guido David.
Face-to-face classes also remain prohibited due to the threat of the pandemic, David said.
Children below 16 years old are also ineligible for COVID-19 vaccines as they have yet to be included in clinical trials, David said.