Health officials reported 3,954 additional COVID-19 cases Thursday, the highest single-day tally since the pandemic began that brought the total infections to 89,374, even as Senator Juan Edgardo Angara warned Thursday that the economy could collapse if Metro Manila reverts to a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).
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At the same time, the Department of Health reported a record 38,075 recoveries in its July 30 case bulletin – the bulk of which were mild or asymptomatic cases that were re-tagged as recovered – bringing to 65,064 the total number of patients who have recovered from the disease.
“Of the 38,075 recoveries reported today, 37,166 were part of the time-based tagging methodology (cases with mild disease or asymptomatic whose date of onset of illness or specimen collection was more than 14 days ago and shall be tagged as recovered) from the enhanced data reconciliation efforts with local government units,” the department said.
In an interview over the ABS-CBN News Channel, Angara said applying rigid lockdowns is not the right approach because these simply postpone the inevitable.
“The model approach is trying to live with COVID, not trying to avoid COVID. At some point...you have to face it and you have to learn how to live with the virus, you have to increase your testing,” Angara said.
“Whether you’re a private company or the government, you have to periodically test your people,” Angara said, noting that a test result two days ago could be completely different in 24 hours.
Talk of stricter quarantine restrictions has increased with the rise in COVID-19 cases since Metro Manila was placed under general community quarantine in June.
On Thursday, the Department of Health recorded 23 new fatalities, bringing the total death toll from COVID-19 to 1,983 while active cases stood at 22,327.
The government will take “new” initiatives to help Metro Manila combat COVID-19, the Palace said Thursday.
In a virtual press conference aired on state-run PTV-4, Roque said one of the new initiatives to be applied in Metro Manila is the use of pool testing to boost the COVID-19 testing capacity in the country’s metropolis.
He said pool testing, which makes use of one reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test kit for at least 10 persons, would expand the actual testing to “10 times.”
The average cost of one RT-PCR test kit is P3,000 but 10 persons can split the bill and pay just P300 each, he said.
Malacañang earlier raised the possibility that Metro Manila, which is currently under general community quarantine, might be placed under MECQ, which is the second most stringent community quarantine level.
Roque, however, declined to confirm whether the quarantine status in Metro Manila would revert to MECQ after July 31.
“I will not preempt the President. But as I said, it will not be business as usual,” he said.
For her part, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire on Thursday defended the DOH after Sorsogon Gov. Francis Escudero said it wasn’t doing enough.
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Vergeire, in an interview over GMA Network’s “Unang Hirit,” said the DOH has been doing its best to address the pandemic since January.
“Each of us has our own opinion,” she said in Filipino.
“The public sees that we are doing our best in this response and that we are in high mode in our response since January,” she said.
On Wednesday, Escudero said that the national government could do more than just presenting statistics on COVID-19 cases.
Escudero noted that the government has enough funds and power to intensify its measures to curb the pandemic.
“Everyday, all I see in the DOH are the statistics of those who are positive, recovered, and deaths,” he said in Filipino.
“I haven’t heard them saying, so far at least during the past two weeks or one month any new initiative regarding our fight against COVID-19 other than waiting for a vaccine,” he said.
Senator Richard J. Gordon called on President Rodrigo Duterte to present a comprehensive master plan for the country’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the President presented some good plans in connection with education in his fifth State of the Nation Address on Monday, he did not give a game plan in the fight against COVID-19, Gordon added.
Clarifying earlier news reports, the DOH said Thursday only 21 percent of total bed capacity in all state hospitals and 10 percent in private hospitals are allocated for COVID-19 patients.
In an interview on GMA News’ Unang Balita, Vergeire gave the clarification following reports of hospitals reaching full capacity with regards to COVID-19 patients.
The DOH has established a “hospital command,” with Health Secretary Francisco Duque III as head, to strengthen the referral system among hospitals, she said.
As of July 29, based on DOH records, 74 percent of overall ICU beds (515 total beds) and 82 percent of overall isolation beds (3,300 total beds) were occupied by COVID-19 patients.
The same data showed that 86 percent of ward beds (1,600 total beds) and 54 percent of ventilators (776 total units) were in use.
Vergeire said the DOH’s proposal to increase the number of beds allocated for COVID-19 patients per state hospital from 30 percent to 50 percent has been received well.
“Some of our government hospitals are now at 70% capacity like the Lung Center, they already reached their allocation for COVID,” Vergeire said.
She said other hospitals are following suit.
The DOH said in a statement that it is hopeful the Philippines will have access to COVID-19 vaccines soon.
“We share the same optimism with the President, that is why the Department of Health, FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and WHO (World Health Organization) are closely monitoring updates regarding the potential cure to this pandemic,” the DOH said in a statement.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said that the vaccine from China might be available by September this year.
Also on Thursday, about 300 officers and personnel of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) detailed at the bureau’s main office Intramuros, Manila, tested positive for COVID-19, forcing BI chief Jaime Morente to suspend operations at the main office until further notice. The bureau said nearly 700 employees assigned to the main office were required to undergo a rapid test by its medical section on Monday and Tuesday.
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