As the country posted a record high of 8,773 new COVID-19 infections on Thursday, researchers tracking the pandemic said the government should consider a stricter modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) in Metro Manila if the “NCR Plus” bubble fails to blunt the surge in by next week.
In an interview on radio dzBB, OCTA Research fellow Prof. Ranjit Rye said National Capital Region (NCR) Plus bubble should be given a chance to work, but if it doesn’t, the government must consider imposing an MECQ.
“Let us give this bubble and our government a chance. This is a stop-gap measure. Let’s see if this will work,” Rye said in Filipino.
He warned that the current COVID-19 surge could “wash away” all the efforts to contain the virus.
“Last year was like a walk in the park and is nothing compared to the increase and seriousness of this year’s surge,” he said.
“What we experienced this year is worse than last year. All our gains will be washed away if this surge is left uncontrolled,” he said.
Rye insisted that the economy will not collapse even if the government imposes MECQ similar to the one imposed last August 2020 after health workers called for a “timeout.”
He said that the reimposition of MECQ in August last year, in face, helped reopen the economy during the last quarter of 2020.
“The World Health Organization is clear on that, we will only be able to open our economy once the virus transmission has been managed. That is the playbook being used by other countries that had to deal with variant-driven surge like us,” he added.
The OCTA proposal for MECQ will include lockdowns, transportation for workers, and cash aid for the poor.
As Thursday’s new cases hit a record 8,773 infections, ICU beds in Metro Manila filled up to a critical level in scenes reminiscent of last year’s peak.
The day’s tally, which does not include data from six laboratories, raised the country’s cumulative number of infections to 693,048.
Thursday’s new COVID-19 cases surpassed the previous record of 8,019 announced by the the Department of Health on Monday.
This marks the second time that more than 8,000 cases were recorded in a single day since the pandemic began.
Active cases were logged at 99,891, the highest figure recorded this year. It also surpassed Wednesday’s tally of 91,748
Active cases now account for 14.4 percent of the total cases. Of the active cases, 95 percent are mild; 3 percent are asymptomatic; 0.8 percent are critical; 0.8 percent are severe; and 0.44 percent are moderate.
The DOH reported 56 new fatalities, bringing the COVID-19 death toll to 13,095, which is 1.89 percent of the total cases.
The DOH also reported that 574 patients recently recovered, bringing the total recoveries to 580,062, which is 83.7 percent of the total cases.
The DOH reported that, nationwide, 54 percent of the ICU bed capacity was in use; 43 percent of the isolation bed capacity was in use; 41 percent of the ward bed capacity was in use; and 36 percent of ventilators were in use.
In Metro Manila, 74 percent of the ICU bed capacity was in use; 66 percent of the isolation bed capacity was in use; 52 percent of the ward bed capacity was in use; 51 percent of the ventilators were in use.
The OCTA Research Group earlier projected a decline in new cases four weeks after the National Capital Region Plus bubble was put in place.
Earlier, it said that the reproduction number of COVID-19 in Metro Manila dropped to 1.91 from the previous 1.99.
Despite this, OCTA said it is still too early to say if the decrease signals the start of the downward trend in the reproduction rate in the NCR.
The group said ICU capacity in Metro Manila has already exceeded the critical level of 70 percent as the number of new cases continued to rise.
As of March 24, ICUs for COVID-19 patients are already 70 percent full, while hospital bed occupancy for COVID-19 patients has risen to 61 percent, OCTA said in a statement.
“The positivity rate in the [National Capital Region] was 18 percent over the past seven days,” OCTA said.
The Philippine Hospital Association had sought help from the national government, saying medical facilities in Metro Manila have been overwhelmed by the surge of new COVID-19 cases.
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