Malacañang on Monday warned that Metro Manila, home to more than 12 million people, may return to stricter quarantine restrictions if hospital beds start to run out due to the growing number of COVID-19 infections.
Metro Manila was under an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), the most restrictive form of lockdown, for more than two months, before restrictions were relaxed under a general community quarantine (GCQ) on June 1.
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Areas under a GCQ allows some businesses and public transportation to open on a limited capacity in a bid to move the economy forward.
“If many of us do not follow health protocols or do not observe social… or physical distancing, wash hands, and continue to leave their homes for unnecessary reasons, we may revert to ECQ or MECQ,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.
Health officials have repeatedly advised the public not to be complacent even if quarantine measures have been relaxed, saying the easing is being done to reopen the economy gradually and not because the threat of the virus is no longer present.
On the other hand, the Department of Health (DOH) said that it will meet with hospital representatives to check the situation in their respective facilities.
DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said government hospitals in Metro Manila are not yet filled with COVID-19 cases.
The country’s tally of COVID-19 cases breached the 46,000 mark on Monday after the DOH reported 2,099 more COVID-19 infections—1,258 “fresh” and 841 reported “late”—bringing the total to 46,333.
The death toll climbed to 1,303 with six new fatalities, the DOH said.
Total recoveries rose to 12,185 after 243 more patients recovered from the respiratory disease.
The DOH said they are strictly monitoring six areas where there has been a spike in COVID-19 cases for the past week. These were Cebu City, Cebu province, and the cities of Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu, Quezon City and Manila.
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As of July 4, the Philippines has 55 certified polymerase chain reaction facilities and 20 GeneXpert laboratories that have tested a total of 738,502 individuals.
Meanwhile, 1,306 or 40.74 percent of intensive care unit beds for COVID-19 patients are currently occupied while 1,971 or 19.89 percent of mechanical ventilators are in use.
But Vergeire reported that 11 Metro Manila hospitals have reported 100 percent utilization of their ICU beds for COVID-19 patients.
She identified the hospitals as Veterans Memorial Medical Center; University of Santo Tomas Hospital; University of Perpetual Help; Tondo Medical Center; Seamen’s Hospital; Philippine Children’s Medical Center; Metro North Medical Center and Hospital; Las Piñas Doctors Hospital; De Los Santos Medical Center; Chinese General Hospital and Medical Center; and Capitol Medical Center.
Vergeire added that the Lung Center of the Philippines reported a 97-percent utilization of its COVID-19 ICU beds while the East Avenue Medical Center recorded 89 percent and the University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Medical Center posted 83 percent.
“When we talk about the percentage of beds that had been occupied already, it is not equivalent to the entire bed capacity of the hospital. Here, we are just referring to the dedicated beds for COVID-19,” she said.
Vergeire earlier said there were some hospitals that ignored the DOH requirement to designate 30 percent of hospital beds for COVID-19 cases.
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Meanwhile, the critical care resources of state hospitals in Metro Manila have reached a “moderate risk level” though not yet overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases.
During an online forum Monday, Vergeire said isolation beds in government hospitals in Metro Manila are 68 percent; ward beds, 79 percent; and ICU beds, 51 percent occupied. About a third of mechanical ventilators were in use.
The Chinese General Hospital and Medical Center in Manila earlier said it would no longer accept COVID-19 patients as its COVID-19 wards were already running at full capacity.
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In Cebu City, the critical care and isolation bed utilization were at 62.45 percent. Its case doubling time for COVID-19 cases was 7.62 days.
National Task Force Against COVID-19 spokesperson Restituto Padilla said that at least three hospitals reported to the task force that they have reached their full capacity and will start referring future COVID-19 patients to other hospitals.
Also on Monday, a government scientist said the recent surge in COVID-19 cases may be partly due to a mutation in the novel coronavirus which is making it at least three times more infectious. Dr. Edsel Salvana said “it is very clear our overall cases are ramping up” even if some of the new confirmed cases were backlogs.