Metro Manila could see more than 5,000 new cases of COVID-19 a day by late August if the government doesn’t impose a hard, two-week lockdown swiftly, independent researchers tracking the pandemic said Wednesday.
Metro Manila mayors are amenable to a return to the strictest lockdown level – Enhanced Community Quarantine for two weeks provided that the national government releases ‘ayuda’ and four million vaccines “to protect the NCR population against the possible spread of the dangerous Delta variant,” said Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Benhur Abalos.
Despite the dire warnings, the Department of Health (DOH) said the country is not at a level where a lockdown is needed, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said Wednesday.
“We respect the opinions of our experts outside of government but the decision to escalate or de-escalate [quarantine measures] would be based on health care capacity,” she said in Filipino.
“Although, we’re sounding the alarm already, based on objective discussion and analysis, we can see we are not yet at the level where we need a lockdown,” she said.
In an online forum, OCTA Research fellow Nicanor Austriaco Jr. said a surge caused by the more infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus would accelerate “in an explosive fashion.”
“Projections based on the behavior of the Delta variant in our ASEAN neighbors suggest that the surge will begin to impact our health care system in the NCR by the middle of August. Our hospitals will become overwhelmed by the end of August,” he said.
“The longer we wait to act, the harder it will be to halt and reverse the surge,” he said as he called for an early lockdown in Metro Manila.
“No country in ASEAN has been able to halt and reverse a Delta-surge without a hard lockdown of major cities,” he added.
OCTA’s Guido David, meanwhile, said a one- or two-week lockdown starting Aug. 1 would enable the government to regain effective control of the pandemic. But two to three weeks would be needed if the lockdown begins Aug. 8.
The OCTA group said a surge in cases would put a strain on the health care system as hospitals fill up again with COVID-19 cases.
Coronavirus variants, including the more infectious Delta variant, are among the factors likely causing the increase in COVID-19 cases in the country, Vergeire said.
Still, Vergeire said the DOH has not classified the recent spike in cases as a surge.
Other factors outside of the variants may have also played a role, such as mobility of the people and poor compliance with health protocols, Vergeire said.
She said Metro Manila’s health care capacity was at “a moderate risk” in the event of another surge in cases.
She added that the department has different parameters and thresholds than OCTA.
Vergeire said Metro Manila’s virus reproduction rate, or the number of people infected by a virus patient, is “more than 1.”
“Right now we’re at moderate risk and we continue to monitor this every day,” she said in an interview with ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo.
“From what we can see right now, we’re still managing but as I’ve said, we’re very cautious that if it crosses the threshold then we will increase or escalate the restrictions,” Vergeire said.
She reminded the public to continue following minimum health standards and to get vaccinated to protect themselves against severe COVID-19.
In a statement Tuesday, the DOH said it is immediately flagging areas with increases in rates of transmission based on two-week growth rates (TWGR), the average daily attack rate (ADAR), and health care utilization.
The cities of Makati, Las Piñas, Pasay, Pasig, Taguig, Paranaque,Manila, Valenzuela, Navotas, Marikina, and Caloocan all have positive two-week growth rates, with Makati, Las Piñas and Pasay having high risk ADAR.
The DOH said its data showed NCR is at moderate risk, with a 19 percent increase in its TWGR, with an ADAR of six cases per 100,000 population.
The DOH also noted that in general, the Philippines has low health care and intensive care utilization rates.
“We are also closely monitoring pending ER admissions. While we have enough capacity as of now as evidenced by the low risk health care utilization rate and ICU bed utilization rate, we must continue our preparations to strengthen local health system capacities and further augment the needed resources to maintain these low risk levels,” Vergeire said.
DOH said it is working with different agencies to ensure that an increase in cases is immediately flagged, investigated and addressed.
“We acknowledge that there is an increase of our case metrics which is why we urge people to continue adhering to the minimum health standards and get vaccinated, and for our local government units to strictly implement our protocols,” Vergeire said.
To prevent a possible surge, the Manila City government is making preparations for the possible enforcement of a lockdown following an increase in COVID-19 Delta variant cases.
A statement issued by the Manila Public Information Office (MPIO) said Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso held an emergency meeting on Wednesday with Vice Mayor Honey Lacuna to discuss measures to prevent another possible surge.
The Philippines logged 4,478 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number of infections to 1,566,667. time, the Department of Health (DOH) reported.
Eighty-four new fatalities brought the COVID-19 death toll to 27,401.
The DOH also reported 6,149 persons who recently recovered, bringing the total recoveries to 1,484,714.
There were 54,552 active cases, of which 93.4 percent were mild, 1.2 percent were asymptomatic, 1.4 percent were critical, 2.3 percent were severe, and 1.64 percent were moderate.
Nationwide, 57 percent of the ICU beds, 50 percent of the isolation beds, 45 percent of the ward beds, and 38 percent of the ventilators, were in use.
In Metro Manila, 46 percent of the ICU beds, 43 percent of the isolation beds, 38 percent of the ward beds, and 36 percent of the ventilators, were in use.
Philippine General Hospital (PGH) officials on Wednesday said 21 out of the 72 local cases of the Delta variant were tested by or admitted at their hospital.
PGH spokesperson Dr. Jonas Del Rosario, in an interview on radio dzBB, said six of the 21 patients were admitted to the hospital.
The rest were only tested for COVID-19 there.
Of the six PGH patients, two died and four have recovered.
Del Rosario said both fatalities were unvaccinated against COVID-19, while only one among the recoveries had received a jab.
The recovered patient only exhibited mild symptoms.
On the other hand, PGH infection control chief Dr. Regina Berba said that no outbreak was recorded among PGH health personnel despite the detection of the Delta variant there.
“Over the last several days, we’ve been informed by the DOH (Department of Health) of the patients who ended up having confirmed Delta variants,” she said.
“Despite the high number of Delta exposures in PGH, we’ve really had no COVID outbreaks so far,” she said.