Brace for post-holiday surge, DOH tells hospitals

The Department of Health (DOH) has warned that the continuing increase in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the country is “signaling the start of a surge” and called for stricter adherence by the public to minimum health standards.

Catholic faithful wearing face masks and shields and observing physical distance attend the first of nine dawn masses signaling the official start of Christmas at a Roman Catholic Church in Manila on December 16, 2020, amidst COVID-19 pandemic.

Undersecretary Rosario SinghVergeire , in a Zoom meeting, said that cases in the National Capital Region (NCR) may go up to 4,000 a day if people will continue to flout the minimum health protocols imposed by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

“We are seeing the worsening of the two-week growth rate from -16% to -4% particularly in Regions 1 and 2, the Cordillera Administrative Region, and the National Capital Region,” she said.

Vergeire said nine cities have reversed the trend but the DOH is seeing that this may change due to the expected increase in cases during the holidays.

She added that the DOH has not yet recommended any change in the quarantine status of the NCR and other high-risk areas.

The DOH has asked all hospitals to prepare for the post-holiday surge in COVID-19 cases and to ensure the availability of the required 20 percent bed allocation as a necessary backup in case of a peak.

“New cases are increasing and the anticipated surge in cases is not a matter of if, but when and how much. We have to put a stop to this surge,” Vergeire said.

The DOH is strongly pushing for strict adherence to the “Apat Dapat” – the wearing of face masks and face shields, air circulation, physical distancing, and 30 minutes interaction or less.

‘No loud talking, singing’

It also called on the public to avoid closed or indoor settings, crowded places, conversations, and other “super spreader” events.

“No loud talking and singing. When one talks, 170 viral particles are released in a minute,” Vergeire said.

She also said that insufficient compliance with the wearing of face shields on top of face masks is contributing to increased transmission.

“Cases are increasing and the surge will most likely happen. All components of the minimum health standards need to be used. People should avoid high-risk activities and settings where ‘talsik-laway’ will happen,” she added.

Vergeire also underscored the need to immediately increase the country’s public health and health care capacity.

Metro Manila mayors have committed to help the DOH in its intensified campaign to flatten the COVID-19 curve after reports showed overcrowding in most places in the NCR due to the holiday rush.

Source: Manila Bulletin (