Press Release | 14 April 2022

MANILA - DOH experts in epidemiologic modeling are seeing a possible increase in COVID-19 cases due to a decline in the population’s compliance with minimum public health standards (MPHS) meant to stop the virus from spreading.

According to the Susceptible-Exposed-Infectious-Recovered with Vaccination and Reinfection (SVEIR) model used by the sub-Technical Working Group on Data Analytics (sTWG DA) and the Feasibility Analysis of Syndromic Surveillance using Spatio-temporal Epidemiological Modeler for Early Detection of Diseases (FASSSTER) Team, the country may have had a low number of cases from March to April but Filipinos have been doing MPHS less (by -7% nationwide, and -12% in the national capital region or NCR) during the same period.

The sTWG DA and FASSSTER analysts determined that decreases in MPHS compliance could translate to large increases in the number of active cases. Based on the disease models, a 20% decrease in MPHS compliance at the national level could lead to around 34,788 active cases with over 564 of these as severe and 267 as critical in mid-May; while a 30% decrease in MPHS compliance might bring the cases up further to as high as 300,000 over the same time period. This figure is higher than the largest recorded number of active cases at 291,618 during the peak of the Omicron wave in January 2022. Within NCR, estimates showed that a 50% decrease in MPHS compliance may lead to around 25,000 to 60,000 new cases per day, bringing the number of NCR active cases to almost half a million by mid-May - more than three times higher than the active cases during the Omicron wave’s peak.

However, if Filipinos are to strictly observe MPHS, in addition to getting fully vaccinated and also up to date with their boosters, and assuming no new variant of concern comes in, the analysts observed that the number of active cases nationwide could decrease and then plateau from 26,256 as of April 12 to just around 1,293 to 16,934 in mid-May. The same drop in severe and critical cases will also be seen, given those conditions. Unless those in NCR improve their compliance with MPHS, the capital could still see an increase in active cases even as other areas will see a decrease.

Another model from the Australian Tuberculosis Modelling Network (AuTuMN) Team estimates that the introduction of a new variant that is two times more transmissible than Omicron (with the ability to escape immunity) may lead to a peak in ICU admissions in NCR of around 2,418 cases. This can occur as early as mid-May 2022. This peak is 2.6 times higher than the 666

admissions last seen in January 2022, and 8.6 times higher than the current 253 admissions. Throughout the pandemic, NCR had at most 1,649 available ICU beds for COVID. This estimated ICU admission will fully occupy these ICU beds and potentially overwhelm our health systems and critical care capacities.

Lowering transmission will lessen the possibility of emergence of new variants, while high coverage of both primary series and booster doses will greatly contribute to a high defense wall against infection and severe disease.

“Numbers do not lie. The good news is, at this point, these are all still projections. We can still avert these estimates in favor of better scenarios. We can all do our part to help stop transmission and mutation of the virus if we are to keep wearing our best fitted masks, isolating when sick, doubling protection through vaccines and up to date boosters, and ensuring good airflow. These will go a long way to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our entire community from the harm that is COVID-19,” says Undersecretary of Health and DOH Spokesperson Dr. Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire.