MANILA (PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, REUTERS) - The Philippines saw its overall number of new cases drop by 25 per cent last month, in part driven by the continued decline in the number of infections in Metro Manila, the epicentre of the country's outbreak.
Department of Health (DOH) data showed that three to four weeks ago, the average number of daily cases nationwide stood at 2,517.
But in the last two weeks, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said this dropped by 25 per cent, or to 1,887.
In the Metro Manila capital region, where the outbreak of the new coronavirus that causes Covid-19 has been largely concentrated, the average number of daily cases in the same period decreased from 842 to 522.
"Hopefully, we will come to that point where new cases will continuously decline," Dr Vergeire said.
Despite the improved numbers, she reiterated that this was not the only metric in recommending the further easing of restrictions, particularly in the capital region that remains under general community quarantine.
"Most important is our health system capacity is not overwhelmed and able to accommodate even non-Covid cases. Also, the average growth rate should be on a downward, meaning it's not on a positive (trend)," she said.
Earlier, Dr Vergeire said the DOH was targeting that all localities in the country would have transitioned to the much looser modified general community quarantine by the first quarter of next year.
The DOH on Tuesday recorded 1,772 new infections and 49 more deaths.
In a bulletin, the ministry said total confirmed cases have risen to 387,161 while deaths have reached 7,318. The Philippines has the second highest number of coronavirus infections and deaths in South-east Asia after Indonesia.
Benguet province on the main island of Luzon recorded the highest number of new infections with 188. This was followed by Davao City on Mindanao island (166), Rizal on Luzon (119) and Quezon City in Metro Manila (116).
Monday's positivity rate was near the World Health Organisation's benchmark of less than 5 per cent.
Dr Vergeire said the DOH was already investigating what was driving new infections among health workers in the Davao region. She noted, however, that these health workers are not assigned in hospitals but in primary care facilities.
"We have already given guidance (to the region) and are further investigating what is happening. For other regions in Mindanao, (there is) a declining trend in health-care worker infections," she said.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said he has appointed Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr, chief implementer of the National Task Force Against Covid-19, as the country's "vaccine czar".
"The purchase of the vaccine, the negotiation (for the) manufacture, production or distribution, I have given that to Secretary Galvez. So only Secretary Galvez is authorised to negotiate or whatever. Only one.
"I don't want a committee, it takes long to decide. I have a great faith in Charlie to really come up with the solutions for the problem," Mr. Duterte said.