Omicron surge has peaked in Metro Manila, DOH chief says

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 24) — The COVID-19 surge driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant has peaked in Metro Manila, according to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

In a media briefing on Monday, Duque said the number of new infections in the capital region has started to fall.

"Lumalabas nag-peak na. Nakikita nating ilang araw nang sunod-sunod na bumababa ang kaso ng NCR at lumiliit ang porsyentong inaambag nito sa ating total caseload," he added.

[Translation: It shows that it has peaked. We see that cases in the NCR have been decreasing for the past few days. It is accounting for a smaller percentage of the total cases.]

Health spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire also noticed a similar trend, but she was careful to make declarations since cases could be underreported as more Filipinos opt not to get tested.

"(It) looks like we have reached the highest number of cases in Metro Manila and slowly cases are going down. But as I have said, we have to be cautious because we do not have the complete picture here because we have not seen those using the antigen and those individuals that are having symptoms or have been exposed but did not have any tests at all," she told CNN Philippines' The Source.

OCTA Research fellow Guido David said Metro Manila's COVID-19 situation started to improve in mid-January, with cases going from 18,000 to around 5,000 per day.

He added the capital region is on track to meet OCTA's projection of recording only 1,000 cases per day by Valentine's Day.

He also said provinces near Metro Manila, namely Cavite, Bulacan and Rizal, are also seeing lower daily new cases.

Is NCR ready for Alert Level 2?

The DOH said government officials need to assess the metrics, including healthcare utilization rate, to decide if Metro Manila can deescalate to Alert Level 2 by February.

Vergeire said the average daily attack rate and two-week growth rate remain high, while the hospital bed use is still at moderate risk.

"Based on these different parameters that we use, I think it is still very early for us to say that we can deescalate NCR as of this time," she added.

OCTA's David personally believes Metro Manila is not yet ready to shift to more relaxed restrictions by Feb. 1. He said it could be eased by mid-February to ensure the announcement is not premature.

Metro Manila is under Alert Level 3 until Jan. 31.