MANILA, Philippines — Confirmed COVID cases nationwide have reached the same peak recorded during the first wave in July last year, the Department of Health (DOH) reported yesterday.
Active cases may possibly reach 200,000 in a month if the new variants become the dominant strain, according to Alethea de Guzman, acting chief of the DOH-Epidemiology Bureau.
Citing DOH data, De Guzman said cases in the National Capital Region (NCR) also reached last year’s peak, with some cities having the same or more cases this time.
While the number of COVID cases dropped after the holiday season, De Guzman said the health agency saw an increase starting end of January and the figure ballooned almost thrice shortly after.
“What we are reporting in the first two weeks of March were 2.5 times higher than what we reported in January,” De Guzman said. “In January, the DOH reported around 3,000 cases daily.”
Clustering of cases was observed not only in homes but also in workplaces.
“In terms of number and proportion, a majority are occurring at home as family members don’t wear masks and practice physical distancing,” she said, adding there is also clustering in workplaces, offices and establishments.
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), however, denied there is clustering of COVID cases in workplaces.
De Guzman cited the importance of implementing public health standards in all settings. She said several factors contributed to the surge in the cases such as mobility and non-adherence to minimum public health standards.
The surge was observed in areas where the United Kingdom (UK) and South African variants were detected, although De Guzman said that even other areas without cases of the new variants recorded an increase.
“While the ‘variants of concern’ have remarkably led to the spike of the cases, we have seen this upward trend before their detection,” she said.
De Guzman said five regions in the country recorded cases of the UK variant while South African variants were reported in three regions.
“Variants of concern” were recorded in 13 cities of the NCR, De Guzman said, adding that 74 or 27 percent of the cases of new variants were incoming travelers.
She stressed the need for stricter border control to stop the possible entry of more travelers.
With the new variants, which are more transmissible, becoming the dominant strain, COVID cases will go up by as much as 28 times, De Guzman said.
‘Not all from Phl’
De Guzman clarified that the reported cases of the so-called “Philippine COVID variant” could not be all attributed to the country.
The variant first detected in the Philippines was also detected in Germany aside from the reported cases in England.
“It just happened that most of the reported cases recently came from the Philippines,” De Guzman said.
She issued the clarification following reports that two cases of the new variants first detected in the Philippines were found in England.
The UK’s public health office said the new strain has the same E484K spike protein found in Brazil.
Although the variant may be present in other countries, De Guzman said, they were probably not reported in the global platform.
Quoting experts, De Guzman said that COVID variants should not be named after the country where these were first detected.
She said over 12,000 variants are being detected but only three were tagged as “variants of concern” while a few others are under investigation for possible impact on humans and the community.
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