THE DEPARTMENT of Health (DoH) expects a fresh surge in coronavirus infections during the holidays as people violate quarantine rules and health standards.

Cases in Metro Manila could peak to 4,000 daily by next month, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire said, citing estimates by a research team from the University of the Philippines (UP).

“Cases in the national capital region may reach upwards of 4,000 cases per day, which may overwhelm our health system to upwards of 80% utilization by the end of January if we do not act aggressively to halt the transmission now,” she told an online news briefing.

Guido David, a mathematics professor from UP and part of the OCTA Research team, said 4,000 cases is at the “higher end of the projection.

He noted that the capital region had posted 2,000 cases daily when it was under a strict lockdown. “We don’t want to reach that level obviously,” he said at the same briefing.

Ms. Vergeire cited a similar infection surge in Canada and the US after thanksgiving celebrations.

“There is a likelihood of this surge in the Philippines in the coming holidays and we should take these threats seriously and act immediately,” she said.

Ms. Vergeire said the infection rates in Metro Manila, Ilocos, Cagayan Valley and the Cordillera Administrative Region have been rising.

The virus reproduction rate in the country and capital region was now more than 1 from 0.8, meaning a coronavirus patient could infect another person, she added.

She also said more than  half of the cities in Metro Manila have experienced an increase in cases, while improvements for the rest have slowed.

The occupancy rate in hospitals was “low risk” at 36% nationally, but health authorities were preparing these for a potential surge.

Health experts last month urged the public to hold activities outdoors and limit interactions during the holidays. Celebrations should also be limited within the household.

The government this week issued an order requiring face masks and shields in public.

DoH reported 1,470 coronavirus infections on Thursday, bringing the total to 454,447.

The death toll rose by 17 to 8,850, while recoveries increased by 633 to 419,902, it said in a bulletin.

There were 25,695 active cases, 84.8% of which were mild, 6.9% did not show symptoms, 5.4% were critical, 2.7% were severe and 0.3% were moderate.

Quezon City reported the highest number of new cases at 74, followed by Rizal at 64, Makati City at 58, Davao City at 55 and Quezon province at 46.

The agency said 11 duplicates had been removed from the tally, while three recovered cases were reclassified as deaths.

The coronavirus has sickened about 74.6 million and killed 1.7 million people worldwide, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization (WHO).

About 52.4 million people have recovered, it said. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas