FOURTEEN of the 17 local government units (LGUs) in the National Capital Region (NCR) or Metro Manila have noted slight increases in coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases and positivity rate, although the Department of Health (DoH) downplayed their impact.
The DoH report comes after OCTA Research first cited an increase in the positivity rate or the percentage of the number of people who tested positive for the disease, prompting them to project a "weak surge" in the next few days.
In a public briefing on Saturday, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire did not name the affected areas but said that despite the rise in Covid infections and a 1.6 percent positivity rate, the country remains under low risk.
Vergeire said hospital admissions for severe and critical cases were stable with total bed utilization steady at 19 percent.
Vergeire said the slight increase in cases can be attributed to the detection of the Omicron subvariants such as the BA.2.12.1, BA.4 and BA.5, as well as the waning immunity of those who have only received their first two doses.
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She also said that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) is still discussing calls to redefine the vaccination status to consider those who received their third dose as "fully-vaccinated" individuals.
Vergeire acknowledged that a possible change in the definition of "fully-vaccinated" could lead to confusion in the definition and classifications in the regulations issued by the IATF.
"Our recommendation of our experts is that we will use the term 'up to date' for the meanwhile. While it is not an official classification, we will determine who took the booster and who are not yet boosted," Vergeire said.
Meanwhile, Vergeire urged vaccination sites not to administer booster shots for non-immunocompromised individuals as there is no strong evidence yet on the safety and efficacy of the fourth dose among the general public.
She also said that the third shot, or first booster dose, remains effective in preventing severe infection and death from Covid-19.
Vergeire urged Filipinos to wait for the release of reformulated bivalent vaccines which contain the Omicron variant and the original Covid-19 strain, as initial clinical studies have shown an increase in neutralizing antibodies and could address Omicron and its subvariants.
She also reminded the public to remain calm but at the same time vigilant and continue to maintain health protocols as the virus continues to linger despite low cases.
"We must understand, the virus will stay here with us. We need to get prepared as we know we will [continue] to live with the virus." Vergeire said.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año had warned the public against violating health protocols and urged local governments to ensure these are enforced properly.
Metro Manila remains under Alert Level 1 until June 15, according to Malacañang, based on the recommendation of the IATF.
Under Alert Level 1, establishments and public transportation are allowed to be fully operational.
Other key guidelines include:
– Requiring individuals to wear masks both indoor and outdoor, in private and public establishments, and while taking public transportation;
– Allowing workplaces and establishments to operate at 100 percent capacity provided they comply with national policies on vaccination requirements for on-site work. Flexible and alternative work arrangements may, however, still be implemented;
– Enabling government offices "to adhere to 100 percent on-site workforce." Off-site work will be subject to the Civil Service Commission and Office of the President's rules and regulations;
– Not requiring establishments to set up isolation facilities in the workplace;
– Not requiring the use of acrylic or plastic dividers;
– No longer requiring the use of the Safe, Swift and Smart Passage (S-PaSS) for interzonal travel to areas under Alert Level 1;
– No paper-based contact tracing although digital contact tracing can be used optionally;
– Presenting proof of vaccination for adults 18 years old and above when entering indoor establishments or participating in mass gatherings, including religious gatherings.