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Health centers in Vis-Min told to rethink virus surge plan

Visayas and Mindanao have been showing faster increases in the number of new COVID-19 cases, the Department of Health (DOH) said Friday.

As of June 8, Mindanao logged 13,425 active COVID-19 cases, while the Visayas logged 9,725 new coronavirus patients, the DOH said.

“Hospitals have been told to revisit their COVID-19 surge plan,” Health Undersecretary Abdullah Dumama said in Filipino during an online press conference.

At least 210,000 Pfizer vaccines have been shipped to Davao City, where 19,654 people are currently battling the disease, Dumama said.

“They said they will also deliver some to Cebu... They are hoping to increase the shipment,” he added.

Some 4,000 health workers have been deployed to hospitals in the Visayas and Mindanao as the DOH ordered health facilities to increase up to 50 percent their dedicated beds for COVID-19 patients, he said.

Health spokesperson and Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the transmission of the virus in these regions usually happens in workplaces, and not in residential communities.

“The clustering in workplaces has been identified as the reason behind the surge of cases. In the NCR, it's coming from communities,” she said.

The presence of foreign variants, which make the virus more transmissible, is also worsening the spread of COVID-19 in the Visayas and Mindanao, Vergeire said.

"We have already detected four types of variants in different regions in the country," Vergeire said.

"These variants increase the transmissibility of the virus. It's not just because they are not complying with the protocols," she said.

While the bulk of COVID-19 patients are in Davao City, President Rodrigo Duterte's hometown should not be considered as the virus' new epicenter in the Philippines, Vergeire said.

"You cannot compare a city with a region," she said, referring to NCR, the current epicenter of COVID-19 in the Philippines.

Davao City contributes to 6 to 7 percent of COVID-19 cases in the country, while Metro Manila-- which is composed of 16 cities--accounts for 10-12 percent, according to data from the DOH.

The DOH earlier said local COVID-19 transmission in Northern Mindanao is already at a high 91 percent.

Last week, Davao City was placed under the second highest community quarantine restriction, while General Santos was put under a general community quarantine to curb the spread of the disease in these areas.

Health officials in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) attributed the spike in COVID-19 cases to mass gatherings like weddings and birthday celebrations.

Meanwhile, Visayas and Mindanao health care capabilities have been expanded to accommodate more patients due to the surge in COVID-19 cases in the two regions, Dumama said.

Dumama said 365 intensive care unit beds and 957 ward beds have been added across Regions 6 to 13, and the BARMM.

He said there were more than 88,000 beds in temporary treatment and monitoring facilities (TTMF) but noted that some areas in Visayas and Mindanao fell short of the required 1 TTMF bed per 1,000 population ratio.

The DOH has been working with uniformed personnel to further augment the health workforce., Dumama said.

He said that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III ordered regional directors to coordinate with the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to ensure that finances are in order.

Duque also called on local governments to strengthen efforts to identify COVID-19 cases and close contacts in their localities and urged the public to get vaccinated.

Active cases stood at 9,725 in the Visayas and 13,435 in Mindanao as of June 8, with all regions in the two island groups showing a positive two-week case growth rate, the DOH reported.

Several areas in Visayas and Mindanao have been placed under more stringent modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) rules due to the uptick in infections.

Topics: health centers , COVID-19 , Department of Health , COVID-19
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