Health Secretary Francisco Duque III (MNS Photo)

MANILA, Feb 17 (Mabuhay) –Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Thursday said the country has already crossed past the crisis stage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Duque noted the improved nationwide numbers when it comes to two-week growth rate, average daily attack rate (ADAR) and healthcare utilization.

“Nalagpasan na natin kasi low risk na nga tayo [We are already past it because we are already under low risk classification],” Duque said when asked if the crisis is almost over or is already over.

Duque said the country’s two-week growth rate is at -81% while the ADAR is at 7 cases per 100,000 population, which he said is considered “low-risk.”

“Tapos ang ating health systems capacity nasa low risk, mga a little over 30% lang ang kama na nagagamit, so 3 out of 10. Mababa siya,” he said.

Still, Duque said he is not in favor of the lifting of the mandatory face mask policy anytime soon.

“Hindi ako naniniwala na malapit na ang panahon [na tanggalin ang face mask policy] kasi lalo na meron tayong campaign rallies. Lalo pa natin dapat pag-igtingin ang pagsunod sa minimum health standards,” Duque said.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. earlier said the mandatory use of face masks would  “most likely” be dropped by the fourth quarter of the year.

Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police said on Thursday 251 areas in the country are under granular lockdown due to COVID-19 cases, affecting 363 people, as of Wednesday.

The PNP said 139 of these areas are in Cordillera, 83 in Ilocos, 16 in the National Capital Region, and 13 in Cagayan. (MNS)

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