A top government official on Thursday said more aggressive localized lockdowns must be imposed in Metro Manila as health authorities reported 1,396 additional cases of COVID-19, bringing total infections to 51,754.
“Our point here is if even we only have one case, let’s implement a lockdown immediately and we need to pull them out and test the people with whom they had contact so that we can get them and they will be put in our isolation facilities,” Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año said in Filipino during a radio interview.
Año, also vice-chairman of the National Task Force for Covid-19, said he raised this matter in his meeting with Metro Manila mayors, officials of Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and some members of Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) as part of measures to contain the spread of disease while gradually reopening the economy.
“What we want now is a faster implementation of localized lockdowns, whether it is a community, neighborhood, a street or a building or one household or one barangay,” he said.
“So that we will be able to eventually reopen jobs and offices and our countrymen will be able to return to work, we need to act fast,” he added.
Año encouraged those who suspect that they’ve been in contact with a possible COVID-19 patient to come forward and get tested.
“Don’t wait for you to be traced. Come forward because we have enough testing kits and expenses for that would be shouldered by PhilHealth if you are a member,” he added.
Año said the possibility of Cebu City being placed under a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) or general community quarantine (GCQ) depends on the data analytics of the COVID-19 cases in the city, which has seen a spike in recent weeks.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier sent Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to lead the government’s efforts in curbing the rapid spread of COVID-19 cases in Cebu City.
The Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday reported 1,396 additional COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 51,754.
In addition to the 1,184 fresh cases, 211 late cases were also reported today. Today’s fresh cases are based on the daily accomplishment reports submitted by only 62 out of 74 current operational labs, the DOH said.
Fresh cases refer to those whose test results were released within the last three days, while late cases are those whose results were released four days or more ago.
There were 225 new recoveries, bringing the total number of patients who have recovered from COVID-19 to 12,813.
No new deaths were reported, and the death toll remained at 1,314.
Of the fresh cases, 390 are from the National Capital Region, 243 from Region 7 or Central Visayas, 67 are among repatriated Filipinos, and 484 are tagged as “others,” which may refer to cases from outside Metro Manila and those without location data.
Of the late cases, 53 are from NCR, 47 from Region 7, three are repatriates and 108 are tagged as others.
The Philippines reached a record-high number of additional COVID-19 cases on Wednesday evening as the Department of Health reported 2,539 cases.
The number of additional cases has been increasing in the last week. The DOH has attributed this to the easing of community quarantine restrictions as the country gradually reopened the economy.
While Metro Manila remains the epicenter of the outbreak, parts of Cebu island have been identified as hotspots or areas with an increasing number of cases. The DOH has assured the public that the health sector is still able to manage the rise in cases.
Some 12 million people worldwide have been infected with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus dashboard. More than 6.5. million of those people have already recovered while almost 550,000 have died.
The DOH said Wednesday that it accepts the projection of 100,000 COVID-19 cases by the end of August, but said the estimate should be taken with caution.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the projection by University of the Philippines professors could still be affected by other factors.
The steady and sometimes sharp rise in COVID-19 cases has been putting a strain on some Metro Manila hospitals.
Philippine General Hospital (PGH) has stopped accommodating severe and critical COVID-19 cases for now as its intensive care unit (ICU) is almost fully occupied, a spokesman said on Thursday.
In an interview with the morning talk show Unang Hirit, Dr. Jonas del Rosario said PGH has an up-to-95 percent occupancy rate with at least 172 COVID-19 patients admitted.
On the other hand, the PGH has enough health care workers who can attend to COVID-19 patients, Del Rosario said.
He also said PGH assumes that the COVID-19 virus may become airborne during clinical procedures and is taking measures to keep its health care workers safe.
Meanwhile, an official from the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila said its COVID-19 ward was almost full.
Following the easing of lockdown restrictions, the hospital has seen an increase in the admission of COVID-19 patients with moderate to severe symptoms in the last two weeks, Dr. Rontgene Solante, chief of the infectious diseases division, said on ABS-CBN TeleRadyo.
San Lazaro Hospital allocated 65 beds for coronavirus patients. Fifty-two patients with the respiratory disease are currently admitted, Solante said.
In Cebu, a Health official said positivity and mortality rates in the city were improving, showing a decreasing trend during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega said they were trying to build up the health care system’s capacity once Cebu opens up its economy again.
On Wednesday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Cebu City will remain under ECQ, citing the increase in cases and short doubling time.
As of Tuesday, Cebu City recorded a total of 7,015 cases of COVID-19, of which 3,852 are active.
Vega also said DOH had a meeting with Cebu City hospitals to advise them the standard allocation of hospital beds for COVID-19 cases, which is 20 percent with a 10 percent allowance in case of surge of patients.
But for the biggest referral center for COVID-19 in the city Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, the DOH advised the hospital to allocate more than the standard allocation.
On Wednesday, the Justice Department ordered the lockdown of its anti-trafficking offices at the three terminals of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport after four of its personnel tested positive for COVID-19. The four were said to have had regular dealings with the general public, and contact tracing has begun.
Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Ed Monreal said they started disinfection on Wednesday after receiving confirmed reports that the four personnel had tested positive.
On Thursday, Rep. Angelica Natasha Co of the Barangay Health Wellness party-list group said minimum health standards should be raised, particularly for public transportation, public places, workplaces, office buildings, condominium towers and congested communities.
With higher standards, there must be stricter enforcement and monitoring, Co said.
She also called for setting up more hand-washing stations, especially at transport terminals and stations, “because the few squirts of ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol are really not enough.”