President Rodrigo Duterte has placed Metro Manila and nearby provinces Cavite, Bulacan, Laguna and Rizal under a general community quarantine with tighter lockdown restrictions for the next 14 days beginning today (Monday).
“This is not a hard lockdown because the economy remains open,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a press briefing Sunday.
“This is GCQ with additional restrictions, targeting activities that we know would further the spread of the virus. This is not an economic lockdown even as we encourage work from home arrangements and as we enforce strictly the minimum health standards for those who cannot work from home,” the Palace official added.
Cavite, Bulacan, Laguna and Rizal were previously under the more relaxed Modified GCQ but the four provinces also recorded a spike in COVID-19 cases in the past few days.
Under Resolution No. 104 of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, the following restrictions will be enforced within the so-called GCQ bubble until April 4:
• Only essential travel into and out of the GCQ bubble will be allowed. Public transportation will remain operational;
• All mass gatherings, including religious gatherings, will be prohibited. Weddings, baptisms and funeral services will be limited to 10 persons;
• Restaurants, cafes and establishments limited to delivery. Take-out and al fresco dining will be allowed subject to guidelines;
• Common curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.. Workers, cargo vehicles and public transportation are exempted;
• Essential and non-essential services and industries are limited to 30 to 50 percent operational capacity; and
• Only individuals aged 18 to 65 will be allowed outside. Visits to other households are strongly discouraged.
Driving schools, traditional cinemas, game arcades, libraries, museums and cultural centers will be temporarily suspended. Cockfighting and cockpit operations will also be suspended in both GCQ and modified GCQ areas.
The Philippines logged 7,757 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, bringing the total number of infections to 663,794, the Department of Health (DOH) reported.
This was the second-highest daily tally since the start of the pandemic and also the third straight day that new COVID-19 cases exceeded 7,000.
Thirty-nine new fatalities brought the COVID-19 death toll to 12,968, which is 1.95 percent of total infections.
The DOH also reported 15,288 recoveries, in the government’s “mass recovery adjustment,” bringing the total recoveries to 577,754, which is 87 percent of the total cases.
That left 73,072 active cases, which is 11 percent of the total number of cases. Of the active cases, 95 percent are mild; 2.3 percent are asymptomatic; 1 percent are critical; 1.1 percent are severe; and 0.58 percent are moderate.
The DOH also reported that, nationwide, 53 percent of the total ICU bed capacity are utilized; 39 percent of the total isolation bed capacity are utilized; 38 percent of the total ward bed capacity are utilized; and 31 percent of the total number of units of ventilators are utilized.
The OCTA Research Group said Sunday more than 4,000 of the 7,999 new COVID-19 cases in the Philippines on March 20 were from Metro Manila.
The breakdown of the 4,059 new cases in NCR were as follows: Quezon City (870), Manila (689), Pasay (329), Makati (297), Pasig (285), Caloocan (229), Paranaque (222), Marikina (218), Valenzuela (195), Mandaluyong (174), Taguig (141), Las Piñas (117), other Metro Manila cities (293).
OCTA said Bulacan recorded the second highest daily increase on March 20, with 534 new cases. This was followed by Cavite, 493; Cebu, 388; Rizal, 336; Laguna, 258; Batangas, 218; Isabela, 201; Pampanga, 195; Mountain Province, 123; and Benguet, 109.
Fresh daily cases of coronavirus disease 2019 infections seem to have multiplied exponentially, a medical expert from the University of the Philippines (UP) said on Sunday.
Prof. Jomar Rabajante from the UP Pandemic Response Team said that the high increase rate means transmission could worsen in communities, saying that spikes in the number of infections have more than doubled or tripled.
“What we see now is, the increase isn't just linear, it’s exponential really,” Rabajante said in an interview on radio dzBB.
An exponential increase is possible if government regulators fail to curb the recent transmission rate, said the fellow of the UP pandemic response team, which provides analyses and makes recommendations on how to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rabajante suggested that granular lockdowns could be put in place to stop the sudden surge of COVID-19 infections.
Localized lockdowns may be needed, depending on the risk level, he said, adding that there are places with almost-zero case rate, such as the Bataan province that is near the Metro Manila, but has no surge in number of cases.
Rabajante said the country's current positivity rate, especially in Metro Manila, has gone up to 15 percent. The positivity rate is the percentage of those who test positive from the total number of people tested for the coronavirus.
“The positivity rate before is 10 percent but now it is increasing to 15 percent especially in NCR,” he said.
Based on their monitoring and given the evidence, the positivity rate could increase in April and May, he said.
Rabajante said eased restrictions on mobility could be one of the causes in the surge of COVID-19 infections.
Meanwhile, the Lung Center of the Philippines COVID-19 ward has reached full capacity because of the continuous rise in cases, the hospital’s spokesperson announced Saturday.
Dr. Norberto Francisco said out of the 200 hospital beds in the Lung Center, 101 or 55 percent are allocated and occupied by COVID-19 patients.
“All the categories — from ICU beds, critical beds, isolation beds, cohorting beds, they’re all full,” Francisco said.
OCTA Research said Saturday hospitals in Metro Manila may reach full capacity by the first week of April as the country’s COVID-19 reproduction number neared 2 amid surging cases.
The OCTA Research group said the reproduction number was currently around 1.95, which indicated that one positive individual can infect nearly two people.
“Our modeling suggests that with the current reproduction number hovering around 1.9, we expect both total bed and ICU capacity to reach full 100 percent occupancy by the first week of April," the research group said.
A reproduction number of one or higher is an indication of the continuous transmission of the virus.