DOH monitoring CAR, Cagayan Valley, Zamboanga Peninsula for possible COVID-19 surge

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 21) — The government is on the lookout for a possible resurgence in COVID-19 cases in at least three regions, despite a decrease in nationwide infections.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Source on Thursday, Health Undersecretary and spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said they are closely monitoring Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), Cagayan Valley (Region 2), and Zamboanga Peninsula (Region 9) since their COVID-19 cases peaked at a later period compared to most areas of the country.

"If you look at our epidemic curve, we will see that these areas had their increase or their peak in the number of cases later on compared to NCR and other areas," Vergeire said.

"NCR had its peak from about Sept. 5 to 11. That's when the most number of cases were reported here in NCR and other areas," Vergeire said. "But if you look at Region 2, CAR, and Region 9, the peak in their cases were Sept 26."

Citing COVID-19 data extracted from the Department of Health's Data Drop, OCTA Research Fellow Guido David said that Metro Manila reported 642 new cases on Oct. 20, followed by Zamboanga del Sur (Zamboanga Peninsula) with 203 cases, Cagayan and Isabela (both in Cagayan Valley) with 195 and 180 cases, and Benguet (CAR) with 177.

Vergeire said COVID-19 cases can further decline in Metro Manila, now with a positivity rate of 11% and a reproduction number of 0.47, an indication of a decreasing community transmission. Vergeire noted however that in the three other regions, hospitals remain full due to their late peak.

Still, Cagayan Valley has seen improvements in its numbers, the regional health director told CNN Philippines’ News Night.

Dr. Rio Magpantay said that from previously being classified under critical level, Region 2 has been downgraded to moderate risk following a decline in infections.

He also reported an improvement in vaccine deliveries and expressed confidence they would be able to raise immunization targets.

According to Magpantay, the region is able to administer roughly 30,000 shots a day, which means a weekly average of 210,000. He said they could bump this up to 300,000 a week.

To date, over 600,000 of the 2.5 million people eligible for vaccination in the area have received at least one dose, with 500,000 now fully vaccinated, Magpantay added.

OCTA said cases in the Philippines are expected to finally reach the pre-Delta surge level by end of October, with 6,416 average daily cases in the past seven days.

Vergeire stressed that biosurveillance reports still indicate the highly transmissible Delta variant remains the most dominant COVID-19 variant in the country. But an improved pandemic response and a larger number of people vaccinated in Metro Manila are at least protecting more Filipinos from severe infections and death, she added.

The DOH reported on Wednesday 3,656 new COVID-19 cases nationwide, a new three-month low in daily infections.