A former adviser to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) said the sustained rise in COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila was “very alarming” and had recommended to the President that he reimpose a strict lockdown for two weeks to slow down the infections.
Former task force adviser Dr. Tony Leachon told CNN Philippines he had made the recommendation to President Rodrigo Duterte after receiving a surprise invitation to a meeting at the Palace just weeks after he was told to resign for openly criticizing the IATF policies.
Instead of the lockdowns, the President opted to keep Metro Manila under the general community quarantine (GCQ) with localized lockdowns where needed.
“During my turn, I told the President that if I would decide this based on my clinical acumen as a physician — and not thinking of the economy and the social amelioration funds — I would perhaps suggest an ECQ (in Metro Manila) patterned after the first ECQ in March 15 onwards and in Cebu,” Leachon told CNN Philippines Friday. “Clearly, there’s a rapid acceleration right now of the cases.”
Leachon also said the latest spikes show that the current strategies are not working, with more resources needed to prevent more Filipinos from getting the disease.
“These are telltale signs that we are not doing well in terms of arresting the virus transmission. I would say we have not really flattened the curve here,” he said.
The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday reported 1,841 new COVID-19 cases, of which 710 are “fresh” and 1,131 are “late,” bringing the nationwide tally of cases to 63,001.
The DOH also reported that total recoveries rose to 21,748 with 311 new ones.
The DOH also reported 17 more fatalities bringing the death toll in the country to 1,660.
The five provinces or cities with the highest number of new cases are Manila with 441, Quezon City with 140, Mandaluyong with 96, Cebu City with 87, and Navotas with 86.
The East Avenue Medical Center (EAMC) in Quezon City on Friday said it has reached a “critical level” in the admission of patients with COVID-19.
Around 90 percent of the public hospital’s COVID-19 beds are currently occupied, said EAMC spokesman Dr. Dennis Ordoña.
EAMC is converting some of its wards for the use of COVID-19 patients.
However, authorities expect these additional facilities to be filled up in just a week, Ordoña said.
The hospital cannot convert all of its facilities into COVID-19 wards because it has some 300 patients who have other illnesses, Ordoña said.
Because of this, the EAMC is trying to refer coronavirus patients with mild to moderate symptoms to other hospitals, he said.
Quezon City as of Thursday had the second highest COVID-19 tally in the country, next to Cebu City, with 4,644 cases.
This includes 2,502 patients who recovered, and 193 who died, according to health department’s website.
Meanwhile, Palace spokesman Harry Roque acknowledged that the surge of new cases had brought total infections beyond the 60,000 mark, surpassing an earlier projection by researchers from the University of the Philippines that the country would hit this milestone by the end of July.
In a television interview, Roque said it was very sad that UP researchers’ initial prediction of 60,000 Covid-19 cases in the country by July 31 happened even before the month ends.
“The prediction becomes true. It’s just less than a month. It’s saddening. They even changed their forecast, saying that many more will get infected with COVID,” Roque said.
Roque urged Filipinos to continue observing minimum public health standards such as social distancing, wearing of masks, and proper hygiene to slow the spread of the virus.
While the lastest data was disheartening, the Palace maintained that the quarantine measures imposed by the government are still working to combat Covid-19.
“They are still working because millions of people would have acquired COVID-19, had we failed to take appropriate actions,” Roque said.
On Friday, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said patients with mild COVID-19 cases will not be forced to transfer from hospitals to government-run isolation facilities.
New patients with mild cases, however, would be directed to the state-run facilities, she said.
Vergeire said government hospitals are well-aware of the protocol that asymptomatic and mild cases should not be admitted, and that severe and critical cases must be given priority.
Vergeire said private hospitals have also committed to strictly follow this instruction in a bid to avoid congestion of COVID-19 patients.
There are 14 mega facilities and isolation centers in local government units across the country for the isolation of asymptomatic and mild COVID-19 cases but the occupancy rate has not reached the maximum capacity yet, Vergeire said.
She said the DOH was working with local government units to refer mild and asymptomatic patients to these facilities, which are not even half full.
According to data from the DOH, over 33,000 or 93 percent of COVID-19 active cases are outside hospitals.
Asked if the protocol to allow home quarantine in previous months has contributed to the continuous surge in cases, Vergeire said the increase cannot be attributed to only a single factor.
Health officials say home quarantine is possible only if the patient has his or her own room, his or her own bathroom, and there are no vulnerable persons living in the same house.
An official of a public hospital in Cebu City said on Friday it had decongested its ward for patients with COVID-19 by opening a satellite facility and strengthening coordination with other hospitals.
The Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center only admits COVID-19 patients with severe and critical symptoms, and brings patients with mild to moderate symptoms to a satellite hospital at an isolation center, said Director for Administration Rey Cris Panugaling, in an interview on ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo.
This brought down the occupancy rate of COVID-19 beds and the intensive care units to about 50 percent, from 70 percent, about two weeks ago, he said.
Cebu City as of Thursday had 6,355 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 2,352 patients who recovered and 224 deaths, according to the health department’s website.
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