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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - MANILA: Workplace common areas have been the main source of a surge in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections in the Philippines, the country’s virus response chief, Carlito Galvez Jr., said on Thursday.
The Department of Health (DoH) reported 3,561 new COVID-19 cases nationwide, bringing the total to 119,460 as of Thursday evening. The recent surge in virus cases and appeals from health professionals have prompted the government to reintroduce Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) in Metro Manila — the national capital region — and surrounding provinces from Aug. 4 to Aug. 18.
“We saw that the most critical areas right now are the workplace, economic hubs, and industries because of the workers’ lack of training on public safety and minimum health standards,” Galvez said in a media briefing, adding that 80 percent of the government’s efforts will now be focused on prevention by changing the mindset and behavior of the people.
He said that “grave violations” have been observed by officials in terms of “minimum health standards” at canteens and in smoking areas.
Other alarming developments, especially in Metro Manila, he added, are the emergence of COVID-19 hotspots in densely populated areas, especially among poor communities where social distancing is difficult, as well as family-wide infections.
“Based on the data we have seen in hospitals, transmission is now not only by individuals, but by families,” Galvez said, noting that contagion happens during family gatherings.
During the same press briefing, the country’s testing czar, Vince Dizon, dismissed a news report naming the Philippines as the potential COVID-19 epicenter in Southeast Asia.
“That’s speculative,” Dizon said, explaining that the Philippines has increased its testing capacity and now conducts the highest number of daily COVID-19 tests in the whole region.
“The data shows that since we ramped up testing, we are finding more positive cases. The public has to understand that that is normal,” he said, adding that the number of COVID-19 recoveries in the country is higher than that of active cases.
According to DoH data, the number of active COVID-19 cases is 50,473, compared with 66,837 recoveries. The death toll is now 2,150 with 28 COVID-19-related fatalities reported on Thursday.
The 15-day MECQ period in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite and Laguna is expected to help prevent a further surge in COVID-19 transmission and lower the number of positive cases in these areas.
To achieve this, Dizon said, the government will increase the number of isolation facilities for COVID-19 patients and intensify tracing.
“In that way, we will be able to slow down the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases,” Dizon said.
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