The government has ruled out the possibility of easing more quarantine restrictions in Metro Manila after July 15, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Monday.
READ: ’No to home quarantine’
In a televised briefing, Roque said the latest available data on case doubling time and critical care capacity do not suggest further relaxation of movement restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“At this point, the data does not indicate that we can relax (restrictions) at least in Metro Manila, if only to manage expectations,” he said.
The Philippines has the second-highest number of infections in Southeast Asia, with more than 57,000 cases as of Monday and 1,599 deaths. Indonesia tops the regional rankings with more than 75,000 cases.
This developed as four major hospitals—Makati Medical Center, St. Luke's Medical Center-Quezon City, St. Luke's Medical Center Global City, and the National Kidney and Transplant Institute – said Monday they have reached full capacity for COVID-19 patients.
These hospitals made the announcement on their respective social media accounts.
READ: Localized lockdowns pushed
Metro Manila mayors have proposed a "hybrid" community quarantine classification, which will entail stricter implementation of health protocols but more economic activities are allowed.
“We will have a compromise to open up our economy, but the economic sector and even the private sector must take equal responsibility in containing the spread (of the virus),” National Task Force against COVID-19 chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. added in the same briefing as Roque's.
Metro Manila has been under general community quarantine (GCQ) since June 1.
Meanwhile, a University of the Philippines math professor expects COVID-19 cases to reach as high as 80,000 by the end of July.
“Our lower estimate now is it would be 80,000 by the end of July,” said Guido David of the UP Institute of Mathematics.
Metro Manila has experienced a “genuine surge” of COVID-19 infections in the past days based on their (UP) data employing several indicators, such as positivity rate, hospitalization rate and the number of cases, he said.
“We should really expect that there will be more cases, and that the problem there is, it will not only be the National Capital Region alone. The CALABARZON region will be affected, and may be even Central Luzon because we have not really monitored our borders under the general community quarantine and modified general community quarantine,” he added.
David, who belongs to the OCTA Research group, said quarantine restrictions on Metro Manila should not be relaxed because most of its hospitals are almost full.
READ: NCR lockdown eyed anew
“If we continue to stay under the general community quarantine, cases would continue to balloon. Our hospitals should be more prepared when the number of cases increases,” he said.
The Philippines’ tally of COVID-19 cases surpassed 57,000 on Monday after the Department of Health (DOH) announced 836 new infections, bringing the total to 57,006.
Total recoveries rose to 20,371 after a record-high 4,325 more patients recovered from the respiratory illness.
But the death toll climbed to 1,599 with 65 new fatalities.
Of the 65 reported deaths, nine (14 percent) were in July, 54 (83 percent) were in June, and two (3 percent) were in May. Deaths were from Region 7 (59 or 91 percent), NCR (four or 6 percent), and Region 11 (one or 2 percent). On case was from an unspecified region.
Eighty-nine duplicates were removed from total case count.
The total cases reported may be subject to change as these numbers undergo constant cleaning and validation, said the DOH.
These are based on the total tests done by 57 out of 82 current operational labs.
There are also 35,036 active cases undergoing treatment or quarantine, 92.2 percent of which are mild, 7.1 percent of which are asymptomatic, 0.4 percent are severe, and 0.3 percent are in critical condition.
READ: DND chief sees 80% chance of MM easing quarantine
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire earlier attributed the surge in infections, recoveries, and fatalities in recent weeks to the DOH’s efforts to harmonize data with local government units.
Three major hospitals in Metro Manila said Monday they have reached full capacity for COVID-19 patients.
Makati Medical Center, St. Luke's Medical Center-Quezon City, and St. Luke's Medical Center Global City made the announcement on their respective social media accounts.
The steady and sometimes sharp rise in COVID-19 cases has been putting a strain on Metro Manila hospitals.
Earlier, the Philippine General Hospital said it already stopped accommodating severe and critical COVID-19 cases for now as its intensive care unit is almost fully occupied.
An official from the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila said its COVID-19 ward was also almost full.
The Department of Health last week said at least 11 hospitals in Metro Manila reported 100 percent utilization rate of their ICU beds for COVID-19 patients.
The Palace said President Rodrigo Duterte will announce new quarantine qualifications in areas affected by COVID-19 before July 15, the last day of the existing quarantine measures.
Palace spokesperson Harry Roque said the President may possibly keep
Metro Manila under a general community quarantine due to continuous
increase of COVID 19 cases in the metropolis.
“The public should not expect to relax the quarantine in Metro Manila as case doubling rate and critical care capacity of the region do not suggest a relaxation of quarantine measures,” he said.
The DOH, meanwhile, said COVID-19 patients can still undergo home quarantine as long as they can be isolated from their family in their homes.
“We are not discouraging home quarantine. We even have a joint administrative order stating that home quarantine is allowed. But as we said, there are conditions required for home quarantine,” Vergeire said. “What they need is to have their own bathroom, their own room.”
Without these, patients need to stay at a temporary treatment and monitoring facility, she said.
Vergeire issued the clarification after Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles’ said the government was discouraging home quarantine in favor of facility-based quarantine, especially as some hospitals have already filled up their COVID-19 bed occupancy.
Vergeire said Nograles might just be talking about the need for stronger quarantine measures that the DOH has been seeking.
Last week, Vergeire also said that the DOH had advised hospitals to refer their mild cases to temporary treatment facilities instead, to decongest their COVID wards, as almost a dozen hospitals have reported 100 percent occupancy for their COVID-19 intensive care unit beds.
Vergeire said that as of July 11, there were 12,684 suspect and probable cases for COVID-19 in home quarantine in different parts of the country.
She said the country has more than enough temporary treatment facilities in case the number of patients increases due to the easing of quarantine measures in the country.
The 8,287 LIGTAS COVID centers of local government units have 70,029 beds that are just 25 percent occupied, she said. Meanwhile, the 14 Mega LIGTAS COVID-19 facilities of the national government only have 38 percent occupancy of its 3,193 beds.
On Monday, National Policy Against COVID-19 deputy chief implementer Vivencio Dizon said the country now has 85 reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing laboratories for COVID-19.
“As we increased the number of our laboratories in May to June, our testing reached nearly 1 million as of June 11,” Dizon said in a Palace briefing Monday.
He said the country will surpass its target of 1 million COVID-19 testing in the next few days.
At the same time, the DOH warned the public against non-licensed COVID-19 testing facilities and laboratories, which are prohibited and dangerous.
The DOH made the statement after Clearbridge Medical Philippines last July 7 posted on Facebook that it has been open for dialysis treatments and COVID-19 rapid and RT-PCR testing for the past few weeks.
The company, the DOH said, is not certified to conduct COVID-19 testing.
Clearbridge Medical later apologized, saying it failed to mention in its post that the facility is in partnership with Safeguard DNA Diagnostics Inc., which is a DOH-licensed COVID-19 testing laboratory. With PNA and AFP
READ: Localized lockdown eyed