Filipinos are heading for a happy Christmas this year as COVID-19 cases remain low and vaccination rates improve, health officials said Friday.
“Now we see the fruits of our labor. Now we see we will be having a happy Christmas," said Assistant Secretary Wilben Mayor, National Task Force against COVID-19 head of strategic communications.
Amid the low COVID-19 numbers, a Department of Health (DOH) official said street parties are allowed this Christmas so long as organizers follow the guidelines, including a maximum of 70 percent of the venue capacity for outdoor events.
DOH director Dr. Beverly Ho said, however, that if organizers or local officials do not have the capacity to enforce the guidelines, then they should forgo these parties.
She added that event organizers should allow only fully vaccinated people into indoor celebrations.
She also urged people to refrain from close-contact activities and loud singing and shouting, and face masks should stay on except during mealtime.
The DOH added caroling was allowed, but revelers should wear face masks and observe social distancing protocols.Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. pointed to major milestones marked under the national vaccination program as a reason for optimism.
During the recent nationwide vaccination days, the country was able
to administer 10,254,560 COVID-19 vaccine doses in a span of five days, he said.
"This is equivalent to a daily average jab rate of 2,050,912 doses, the highest recorded since the national vaccination program was rolled out in March," he said.
Government officials have attributed the decline in COVID-19 cases to the intensified vaccination program and the public’s adherence to minimum public health protocols.
The government urged those who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 to get the jab during the second round of the National Vaccination Days scheduled from Dec. 15 to 17, which aims to inoculate 7 million more people.
Based on latest data from the National Vaccination Operation Center (NVOC), a total of 94,236,990 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered, and 39,560,598 Filipinos are now fully vaccinated. At least 15 million more have had their first shot.
In another sign of declining COVID-19 numbers, about 598 or close to half of the 1,232 hospitals nationwide have no new admissions of patients with the coronavirus from Dec. 5 to 9, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.
“We have observed that nationally, 48.5 percent of hospitals reported no new COVID-19 admissions in the past five days from Dec. 5 to 9,” Vergeire said.
In the National Capital Region (NCR), 62 or 39.2 percent of the 158 hospitals have logged no new COVID-19 admissions for the same period.
"Our epidemic curve shows that the current average of daily cases has further decreased by 180 cases or 27 percent this week [to] 498 average cases per day. This average cases per day is already 10 times lower than those reported in July of 2021 and also lower by more than half of the cases per day as of Jan. 2, 2021," Vergeire said.
She said the NCR is now considered at minimal risk for COVID-19, with an average daily attack rate (ADAR) of 0.87 per 100,000 individuals.
Minimal risk means that the ADAR is less than 1.
Vergeire also said that cases have declined over a two-week period in the NCR.
NCR recorded a bed utilization rate of 21.11 percent, a mechanical ventilator utilization rate of 16.82 percent, and an ICU utilization rate of 29.31 percent.
San Juan, Las Piñas, Taguig, Pasay, Mandaluyong, and Pasig are at low risk while Quezon City, Makait, Parañaque, Manila, Valenzuela, Navotas, Marikina, Malabon, Muntinlupa, Caloocan, and Pateros are at minimal risk.
Vergeire said that San Juan, Pasig, Paraãnque, Valenzuela, and Malabon all showed a positive one-week growth rate.
The DOH is monitoring Eastern Samar, Western Samar, and Zamboanga Sibugay after these showed positive one-week and two-week growth rates.
The Philippines logged 379 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, bringing the total number of cases to 2,836,200.
There were 25 new fatalities due to late encoding, bringing the COVID-19 death toll to 49,961.
This was the third lowest daily tally so far this year, data from the DOH showed.
The DOH also reported 631 new recoveries, bringing the total recoveries to 2,774,334.
There were 11,905 active cases, of which 757 were asymptomatic; 4,860 mild; 3,797 moderate; 2,060 severe; and 431 critical.
Nationwide, 25 percent of ICU beds; 24 percent of isolation beds; 14 percent of ward beds; and 14 percent of ventilators, were in use.
In Metro Manila, 28 percent of ICU beds; 20 percent of isolation beds; 22 percent of ward beds; and 17 percent of ventilators, were in use.
The positivity rate was at 1.3 percent, based on 35,903 people tested on Dec. 8.