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DOH: New COVID-19 case peaks expected in coming weeks

New COVID-19 cases are expected to reach new peaks in the coming weeks, the Department of Health (DOH) said Thursday as the Philippines continues to grapple with a fresh uptick in infections.

DOH Epidemiology Bureau director Dr. Alethea De Guzman recalled that the increase in cases earlier this year started in late February to early March but only peaked in the first week of April.

“In the next days and weeks, we’ll probably [be] seeing additional peaks,” she said in an online forum.

“Tayo ay nagsimula kasi ngayon na (We started with) around an average of 5,000 cases per day and we will really see, as we haven’t felt the full effect of our ECQ (enhanced community quarantine), there is really a probability that we will still see additional cases,” she added.

The DOH previously explained that it would take around two to three weeks after the lifting of the ECQ for the effects of the lockdown to become evident. The ECQ in Metro Manila expired on August 20 and placed under modified enhanced community quarantine, along with Laguna and Bataan until end of the month.

Under MECQ, indoor and al fresco dine-in are not allowed, and businesses are allowed to operate but only with limited manpower capacity. Religious gatherings, however, will remain virtual. Also not allowed are personal care services including beauty salons, beauty parlors, barbershops and nail spas.

De Guzman admitted it is difficult to predict exactly when cases would peak again since the numbers change weekly.

The Philippines logged a record-high 18,332 new COVID-19 cases on August 23, the latest in a string of all-time highs registered this month alone. 

Alert Level 4

Meanwhile, De Guzman said the increase in cases is no longer coming from just NCR Plus or Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal.

“It’s actually more challenging now because the increase in cases is not centered on that area alone. It’s actually across [the] whole of Luzon and selected regions in Visayas and Mindanao,” she said.

The following areas have been placed under Alert Level 4, meaning they were classified as moderate- to critical-risk and have a healthcare utilization rate higher than 70%:

  • Metro Manila: Malabon, Navotas, Pateros, Marikina, Taguig, Quezon City, Makati, San Juan, Muntinlupa, Parañaque, Las Piñas, Pasay, Pasig, Valenzuela
  • Cordillera Administrative Region: Apayao, Baguio City, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, Mountain Province
  • Region 1: Dagupan City, La Union
  • Region 2: Cagayan, City Of Santiago, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino
  • Region 3: Angeles City, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Olongapo City, Pampanga, Tarlac, Zambales
  • Region 4A: Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Quezon, Lucena City, Rizal
  • Region 4B: Marinduque, Occidental Mindoro
  • Region 5: Camarines Sur, Masbate, Naga City, Sorsogon
  • Region 6: Antique, Guimaras, Iloilo, Iloilo City
  • Region 7: Bohol, Cebu, Cebu City, Lapu-Lapu City
  • Region 8: Ormoc City
  • Region 9: Zamboanga Del Sur
  • Region 10: Bukidnon, Cagayan De Oro City, Camiguin, lligan City, Lanao Del Norte, Misamis Oriental
  • Region 11: Davao City
  • Region 12: Cotabato (North Cotabato), General Santos City, Sarangani, South Cotabato
  • Caraga: Agusan Del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Butuan City, Surigao Del Norte, Surigao Del Sur
  • BARMM: Cotabato City, Lanao del Sur

The Philippines averaged 15,537 new cases daily from August 19 to 25, higher than its average of 12,897 new infections in the week before.

The country’s hospital bed and mechanical ventilator utilization rates were in the moderate zone at 64.40% and 53.65%, respectively, while the intensive care unit occupancy rate was in the high-risk category at 72.98%. 

New COVID-19 infections

Earlier in the day, the OCTA Research group identified the 20 areas in the country that recorded the most number of new COVID-19 infections on Wednesday, with NCR leading the list.

A tweet by OCTA Research fellow Dr. Guido David shows the NCR with 3,627 new COVID-19 cases followed by Cavite with 1,281, Laguna with 779, Cebu with 733, and Pampanga with 626. — RSJ, GMA News