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Duque says COVID-19 cases in NCR already peaked

New daily COVID-19 cases in the National Capital Region (NCR) have peaked already amid the decline in the number of infections reported over the past few days, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Monday.

“Lumalabas nag-peak na at nakita natin ilang araw nang sunod-sunod na bumababa ang kaso ng NCR at lumiliit ang porsyenteng inaambag nito sa ating total case load,” Duque said during the Laging Handa briefing.

(It seems like it has peaked already as we’ve been seeing a continuous decline in COVID-19 cases in NCR as well as a decrease in its contributions to the total caseload.)

The Philippines on Sunday logged 29,828 new cases, breaking the streak of over 30,000 daily cases in the previous three days.

When asked if NCR is prepared in case the alert level will be downgraded to Alert Level 2 by February, Duque said, “Oo, handa naman ang Metro Manila [Yes, Metro Manila is ready].”

Duque said the alert level in NCR may be downgraded to Alert Level 2 should it meet the criteria set by the government.

Among the criteria is the two-week growth rate must be at moderate risk and the average daily attack rate must be at around one to seven cases per 100,000 population. Healthcare utilization rate must be 49% and below.

“Yan automatic, ‘yan, kapag maabot ‘yan, babaa tayo to Alert Level 2 [automatic, if we those criteria then we will go down to Alert Level 2),” he said.

Data from the DOH showed that 48% of the ICU beds in NCR are utilized while 46% of the isolation beds are in use.

Duque, however, said this must still be discussed by the Inter-Agency Task Force.

“Baka kailangan tignan pa rin kung ang healthcare utilization rate ay nagkaroon na ng pagbabaklas o decoupling. Kumbaga tumaas ng kaso, ito raw yung kwan natin, ‘yung mga severe, critical, nasa baba,” he said.

(We may need to look at the healthcare utilization rate if it had decoupling. Even if cases went up, the severe, critical is low.)

Stealth Omicron

Meanwhile, Duque said the country is in coordination with the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding the reported sub-lineage of the highly transmissible Omicron variant called the BA.2 or the Stealth Omicron.

“Ang ating EB (Epidemiology Bureau) ay patuloy na nakikipag-ugnayan sa mga kinatawan ng World Health Orgnaization… binibigyan tayo ng pinakahuling datos sa katangian ng bagong variant na ito,” he said.

(Our Epidemiology Bureau is coordinating with the Word Health Organization representative who is giving us the latest data regarding this new variant.)

The DOH earlier said the country has yet to detect Stealth Omicron.

Despite this, Duque assured that the vaccines remain effective.

“Bakuna [vaccine] continues to be effective against critical cases, therefore preventing hospitalizations and deaths,” he said.

Duque said compliance with minimum public health standards remains effective against COVID-19 infection. This includes the wearing of face masks, social distancing measures, and hand washing.   —KBK, GMA News