The Philippines on Friday logged a record high of 401 deaths in a single day due to COVID-19 as active cases shot up to 178,351, also a record high.
As cases continued to increase, the OCTA Research Group said the government should impose a two-week modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) to “sustain the gains” made over the previous weeks if the ECQ imposed on NCR Plus cannot be sustained.
Prof. Ranjit Rye of OCTA said the COVID-19 situation in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal —called NCR Plus — is “not yet ideal for opening up.”
Rye said the reproduction number of the coronavirus remains above 1.
This means each COVID-19 case can still infect more than one other person, and the average number of daily new cases continues to be “very high.”
Malacañang earlier said it was unlikely that the ECQ would be extended past April 11.
The Department of Health said that the loosening of restrictions will be gradual, with MECQ imposed first instead of jumping straight to general community quarantine, a less stringent classification that allows more economic activity.
The government’s inter-agency COVID-19 task force will meet on Saturday to discuss the quarantine restrictions over NCR Plus.
On Friday, the DOH logged 12,225 new COVID-19 cases, bringing total infections to 840,554.
The new fatalities brought the COVID-19 death toll to 14,520, which was 1.73 percent of all infections.
The DOH also reported 946 patients recently recovered, bringing the total recoveries to 647,683, which was 77.1 percent of the total.
Active cases represented 21.2 percent of the total cases. Of the active cases, 97.5 percent were mild; 1.4 percent were asymptomatic; 0.4 percent were critical; 0.5 percent were severe; and 0.27 percent were moderate.
A total of 10 laboratories were not able to submit their data on time.
Nationwide, 63 percent of the ICU beds are in use; 50 percent of the isolation beds are in use; 50 percent of the ward beds are in use; and 46 percent of the ventilators are being used.
In Metro Manila, 80 percent of the ICU beds are in use; 72 of the isolation beds are in use; 58 percent of the ward beds are in use; and 60 percent of the ventilators are being used.
Hospitals in the capital region continue to be overwhelmed with fresh COVID-19 admissions, despite nearly two weeks under the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), which was imposed in Metro Manila and the nearby provinces of Rizal, Laguna, Cavite, and Bulacan.
The government is also distributing modular tents to struggling hospitals and re-deploying health workers from regions where virus transmission rates are low.
World Health Organization Representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe earlier told the government to focus and improve its virus response amid the spike of infections, and that it should not solely depend on COVID-19 vaccines.
Meanwhile, OCTA urged the national government to work with its local counterparts and the private sector to accelerate COVID-19 vaccination in NCR Plus.
“In particular, we need to expand the number of vaccination sites in the NCR to accommodate more individuals and reduce the possibility of super-spreader events due to crowding in vaccination centers,” Rye said.
OCTA suggested using university gyms and even malls as alternative vaccination sites.
Also on Friday, the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) said its ICU has been at full capacity while its bed capacity for COVID-19 patients is now at 90 percent.
“We still feel the surge, our ICU remains full and many patients with severe or critical COVID-19 are still waiting for beds, others are in the emergency room,” said Jonas del Rosario in an interview on TeleRadyo.
Del Rosario said they could no longer attend to severely ill patients referred by other hospitals as their ICU is already full, and they have closed two non-COVID wards.
Only patients with life and limb-threatening emergency and imminent deliveries will be admitted.
The country’s largest COVID-19 referral center urged the public to continue using their hotline number 155-200 for COVID-19 and other concerns before heading to the emergency room.