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100k virus cases by August

UP team warns of further surge with reopening, calls for system change

Cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines may surpass 100,000 by the end of August, a mathematics professor from the University of the Philippines said Tuesday, as he urged the government to tweak pandemic protocols.

TOUGHER COMMUTE. A staffer of the MRT-3 train line, wearing a protective suit, uses a megaphone to guide passengers in boarding an EDSA Carousel bus (photo below)on Tuesday, after authorities suspended operation of the MRT after some of its staff tested positive for the coronavirus. Operations at the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority offices were similarly halted after several staffers there also caught the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease (see related story on A8). AFP with Norman Cruz
READ: Sudden spike in virus cases normal—expert

“Based on what I’ve seen, the trend is that it will increase, [and] surpass 100,000 if we don't change our system, our handling of the pandemic,” said Guido David, a member of the UP OCTA Research group.

The cases are increasing by at least 1,000 cases a day and areas without any COVID-19 cases before lockdowns were eased recently became virus hotspots, David said.

Authorities should tighten border controls, ramp up coronavirus screening, and bring those who test positive for the virus to isolation facilities instead of going on home quarantine, David said.

The government should also rethink the transportation of workers, after scores of MRT personnel caught the virus, he said.

David also urged the public to wear masks, and practice physical distancing and good hygiene.

The Philippines on Tuesday recorded 1,540 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, raising the nationwide total to 47,873.

Of the new cases, 933 were “fresh” while 547 were “late” with results having been submitted four days or more ago.

The fresh cases are based on the daily accomplishment reports submitted by only 69 out of 74 current operational labs, the Department of Health (DOH) said.

The DOH also reported six new deaths from the disease, bringing the death toll to 1,309. Of the six reported deaths, three occurred in June.

At the same time, the DOH reported 201 new recoveries, bringing the number of patients who have recovered from COVID-19 to 12,386.

READ: DOH to shift reporting of virus cases

On Monday, the DOH said it has seen a decline in COVID-19 cases in three Metro Manila cities—Marikina, Muntinlupa and Makati.

However, it said Quezon City was still being monitored because of a spike in cases.

“Marikina decreased by 68 percent, Muntinlupa decreased by 10 percent, Makati decreased by 4 percent,” the DOH said in a message to media.

“We are closely monitoring Quezon City which has shown an increase by 34%,” the DOH said.

On the other hand, the department said it had misidentified the four cities as emerging hotspots during a Monday briefing.

“We apologize for the confusion. This is our up-to-date record. We will redouble our efforts to keep our reports as current as possible,” they said.

During the briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said cases in the Visayas seemed to be slowly decreasing.

Based on the DOH website, Quezon City tops the list of NCR cities with 3,420 cases as of July 4.

Next is Manila with 2,415 cases, Caloocan with 1,059, Makati with 1,020 and Parañaque with 878.

While NCR remains the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, areas of Region 7 have been identified as emerging hotspots.

Vergeire said Tuesday that the recent increase in COVID-19 cases was due to the clustering of cases and community transmission, and not improved testing.

Vergeire noted that the new cases are not attributed to improved testing anymore.

With the evident transmission of the disease, Vergeire advised the public to be more cautious.

“These numbers that we are having right now should make people more cautious. This is not just because we are testing more but because there are really clustering of cases that we have been identifying for these past days,” Vergeire said in an interview on ANC.

“And also, there is really community transmission. This is not just because we are testing more, but this is really a result of community transmission,” she added.

Vergeire said they are looking into the different clustering of cases across different areas of the country to observe them closely, with the help of local government units.

Vergeire said the Department of Health (DOH) is in talks with the mayors to create guidelines on how to manage the COVID-19 cases in their respective areas.

“We have provided them with guidance, discussed with them what should be done so that we can be able to take appropriate measures when it comes to this increasing number of cases,” she said.

The DOH said it will highlight the additional as well as the remaining active cases in reporting updates on COVID-19 numbers starting on July 10, Friday.

In an interview on ANC on Tuesday, Vergeire said they will no longer report the ‘fresh’ and ‘late’ cases.

"By July 10, we would be introducing our new way of reporting cases where there would be no fresh and late cases anymore,” she said.

“We will just be providing the general public the additional cases and we will be highlighting the active cases instead of the cumulative number of total cases,” she added.

Vergeire explained that active cases refer to persons who tested positive for COVID-19 staying in hospitals, quarantine facilities, or under self-quarantine at home.

The active cases exclude recoveries and fatalities, she added.

“We will be putting up the epidemiologic curve just to show people when the disease really started, the onset of illness of these individuals who were tested positive,” she said.

She noted that the total number of COVID-19 cases will still be reported so that the public will have an idea of the total number of infections since the start of the spread of the disease.

According to Vergeire, active cases will be highlighted since this number shows the remaining cases that need to be managed.

Also on Tuesday, the Chinese General Hospital and Medical Center in Manila clarified it can still accommodate COVID-19 patients and has a referral mechanism in place in case the beds designated for the disease are already full.

In an interview on Dobol B sa News TV, Chinese General Hospital medical director Dr. Samuel Ang clarified the recent letter he released urging their hospital doctors to limit the admission of COVID-19 patients to a "manageable level."

"It gives people the impression that Chinese [General Hospital] was overwhelmed. That’s not true. The memo for some reason leaked on social media [but it] was meant for our doctors," Ang said.

"That memo was taken out of context. I was encouraging my staff that mild cases be sent home for quarantine,” Ang said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Ang said every hospital was mandated by the Department of Health to allot 30 percent of its facilities for COVID-19 patients.

Though admitting that the occupancy of COVID-19 beds in the Chinese General Hospital is nearing full capacity, the hospital official said it can still accept mild to severe cases right now.

"We will not turn down anybody,” he said.

According to the DOH on Monday, 11 hospitals in Metro Manila reported 100 percent utilization rate of their intensive care unit (ICU) beds for COVID-19 patients.

The Chinese General Hospital is one of these facilities.

Meanwhile, St Luke's Medical Center dispelled rumors that its hospitals had already reached full capacity.

"We would like to clarify that both SLMC in Global City (GC) and Quezon City (QC) still have the capacity to handle COVID-19 related cases, including non-COVID cases," its statement said.

It added that "as of July 6, we have 70 percent admission based on the designated number of beds for COVID-19 cases."

SLMC assured the public that despite the continued increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, its hospitals remain "fully equipped in handling any medical concern."

It also urged the public to verify information before sharing on social media.

On Tuesday, Quezon City reported a total of 3,869 COVID-19 cases.

The total number of validated cases by the city’s Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit and District Health Offices was 3,762.

Some 162 cases were added to the 3,600 reported cases last July 4.

Active COVID-19 cases were at 1,301.

The city government reported 98 new recoveries, bringing the total number of recoveries in the city to 2,214. There were eight new cases of death, bringing total fatalities in the city at 247.

Topics: COVID-19 , Rodrigo Duterte , Guido David , Department of Health , Maria Rosario Vergeire , Chinese General Hospital
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