DOH not seeing massive increases, but NCR daily COVID cases may hit up to 2K by July

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 23) — The Health Department is not seeing a massive nationwide increase in COVID-19 cases for now, but infections may reach up to 2,000 next month in Metro Manila.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Source on Thursday, outgoing Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the Philippines' COVID-19 situation is already far from where it was in 2020 when there were no COVID-19 vaccines that could be administered, and even just last January when the country hit over 34,000 new infections due to the Omicron subvariant.

The country even recorded as high as 39,004 cases on a single day nationwide in the middle of January.

However, it cannot be assumed that no surge will happen again because of the virus' unpredictability in relation to its mutations and transmissibility, Duque said. Citing data from the Australian Tuberculosis Modeling Network (AuTuMN), he noted that cases in Metro Manila may hit 800 to 1,2000 by end of the month.

"Pero by end of July, pwede 'yang maging 1500-2000 cases daily. After that, magpa-plateau siya to below 1000," Duque said.

[Translation: By end of July, we may reach 1500 to 2000 cases daily. After that, infections will plateau to below 1000.]

He added that this projection is based on the assumption that there is going to be a drop in masking compliance, low booster uptake, waning immunity, and the entry of more transmissible subvariants or sublineage of the Omicron variant.

Metro Manila and most parts of the country remain under Alert Level 1. Duque said a more sensitive metric that would prompt a higher level would be when the country's healthcare utilization rate spikes to 50 to 70%.

Right now, the Philippines remains at low risk for COVID-19 with 14.61% to 17.82% utilization, and an average daily attack rate still less than 1 per 100,000 population.

The country on Monday logged a daily average of 436 COVID-19 cases — or a total of 3,051 new infections — from June 13 to 19, reflecting an 82% rise from the previous week.