The Department of Health, alarmed by increasing cases of coronavirus infections, is seeking higher community quarantine levels as a preemptive measure against the Delta variant after recording an increase in COVID-19 cases nationwide.
“All areas are showing an increase in cases,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told state television PTV.
“We need to immediately address, observe case increases, closely monitor health care utilization and consider implementing higher community quarantine as preemptive measures to contain the Delta spread,” she said.
While the entire country’s risk classification remains at “moderate,” the National Capital Region (NCR) and NCR Plus areas “are showing a steep increase, while the rest of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao [are] exhibiting slight increase in cases,” she said.
As of August 2, the capital region registered the greatest number of new cases at 2,074, followed by Calabarzon, Central Visayas, Central Luzon and Western Visayas, data from the DOH showed.
Cavite, Laguna, Quezon City, Bulacan Cebu City, and Bohol are the top contributors of new COVID-19 cases in the country.
Of the 21 areas flagged due to moderate-high risk case classification, 11 areas had Delta variant carriers, Vergeire said.
In Metro Manila, the more virulent strain is present in nine cities, she said, adding intensive care units in Las Piñas City are nearly full, while Pateros and Malabon are already at “critical risk,” she said.
The two-week growth rate (TWGR) of the virus in Pateros is at 328 percent. This means that in the past two weeks, about 22 people in the area contract the virus daily, data from the DOH showed.
Malabon’s TWGR is at 314 percent rate, and the city is estimated to have recorded 12 new COVID-19 patients every day in the past 2 weeks.
“We should stockpile on essential COVID-19 medicine and commodities,” she said, adding there should be a “30-day buffer for personal protective equipment, reagents and other medical supplies.”
So far, 216 people have been confirmed to be carriers of the Delta variant, but DOH officials said they were assuming there was already community transmission of the more contagious strain.
Several government advisers have been urging the national government to increase the country’s COVID-19 vaccination target to 80 percent from 70 percent to protect more Filipinos against the Delta variant which is “60 to 100 percent” more transmissible than the virus’ original strain.
The Philippines is expected to lose up to P105 billion each week due to Metro Manila’s lockdown.
Malacañang is hopeful the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) that will be placed in Metro Manila from Aug. 6 to 20 will be the region’s last one.
“Even if numbers (of infections) increase, we expect the number of vaccinations to rise just like in Israel and the United States where even if they have higher numbers, they were able to prevent serious illness and death),” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said in a Palace press briefing.
Roque said he expected fully vaccinated individuals to only suffer from mild COVID-19 symptoms once the country reaches its goal of achieving population protection in Metro Manila and nearby areas.
He dismissed criticism that the national government was late in declaring an ECQ in Metro Manila which in turn caused a spike in COVID-19 cases.
The Philippines logged Tuesday 6,879 new cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), bringing the total to 1,612,541, as one laboratory was not operational on August 1, while nine laboratories were not able to submit their data on time, the DOH reported.
Based on data in the last 14 days, these 10 laboratories contribute, on average, 3.7 percent of samples tested and 3.6 percent of positive individuals.
The relatively low cases are due to fewer samples received last Sunday, the DOH said.
The DOH also reported 48 new fatalities, bringing the death toll to 28,141.
The DOH also reported 6,337 persons who recently recovered, bringing the total recoveries to 1,521,263.
The DOH also reported 63,137 active cases, of which 94 percent were mild, 1.3 percent were asymptomatic, 1.2 percent were critical, 2.1 percent were severe, and 1.46 percent were moderate.
The DOH said the Delta variant was one of the factors that caused the COVID-19 cases to exponentially rise.
“Looking at our cases right now, it’s exponentially rising, so we really think the Delta variant is driving the rise in the number of cases,” Vergeire told CNN Philippines.
Vergeire also stressed that other variants such as the more transmissible Alpha and Beta are also a factor in the uptick.
The Philippines has logged 1,856 Alpha cases, 2,146 Beta cases, and 216 Delta cases as of July 28.
On the other hand, Vergeire said the DOH had yet to confirm community transmission of the Delta variant, which would mean that links between cases can no longer be identified.
The DOH earlier said the reimposition of the strictest lockdown regulations over Metro Manila from August 6 to 20 will prevent daily new cases from going up to 15,000.
“If we are going to continue on and we will not have these kinds of restrictions, we can reach up to 500,000 active cases by the end of September,” Vergeire warned.
Despite the tightening of restrictions, however, the total number of active cases in Metro Manila is still seen to hit 30,000 by end-September.
Authorities have said Metro Manila would inoculate 250,000 people daily and conduct 24/7 vaccination during the ECQ.
Vergeire said this would be a “very big contribution” to protecting the healthcare system.
The re-imposition of ECQ in Metro Manila will prevent as many as 15,000 new COVID-19 cases a day, the DOH said.
According to Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, initial projections based on COVID-19 data last week showed that active cases in Metro Manila could still reach 30,000 despite the ECQ.
However, she said that projection was still lower than what the figures could be if restrictions were not tightened.
“According to projections, if we have four weeks straight of GCQ with heightened restrictions, we will have an average of 15,000 new cases per day in NCR alone,” she said in a briefing.
“If we do one week of GCQ with heightened restrictions plus three weeks continuous ECQ, we will be able to control the increase in cases to just 758 cases per day in NCR,” she added.
Vergeire said the projections might change as COVID-19 cases increase.
Coronavirus cases are on the rise in Cebu City and one hospital has observed that many patients are battling the severe form of the disease.
Dr. Bernadita Chua, vice chairman of the COVID-19 Task Force of Perpetual Succor Hospital, said patients now needed oxygen support compared to those hospitalized early this year.
“What’s frightening about this surge, a lot of them are oxygen-requiring. Unlike in February, they come in and then, they won’t have to be admitted in the ICU,” she told ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo on Tuesday.
She added: “A significant number of these patients are severe to critical, but those that got vaccinated, they were moderate,” she added.
According to the Cebu City Public Information Office, a total 187,524 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the city from March 24 until Aug. 2 this year.
Meanwhile, Lapu-Lapu City has revoked its policy denying entry to commercial establishments for people who have yet to get vaccinated against COVID-19, Malacañang said on Tuesday, following criticism against it.
In an executive order issued last July 26, presentation of vaccination cards was required of people before they are allowed entry in public and private markets, convenience stores, and department stores supposedly starting Aug. 25.
This order “has been revoked,” Palace spokesman Harry Roque said, quoting Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard Chan. The city government’s public information office also confirmed the revocation.
The order was meant to be imposed while the city is under the second loosest lockdown level. But Lapu-Lapu City has been placed under the second toughest quarantine classification, Roque noted in a press briefing.
Release of funds
Sen. Grace Poe has asked the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) and the Department of Budget and Management to work harder to expedite the release of funds to hospitals and health workers, as the country faces fierce threats from the Delta variant.
“We’ve been in this trying situation for over a year and both the DBM and PhilHealth have last year’s experience to draw from to improve their services in the next round of ECQ (enhanced community quarantine),” Poe said.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a public health emergency, with healthcare workers and hospitals serving without letup in the frontlines.
“We must do our utmost for the health sector and ensure that our medical frontliners and hospitals are paid to enable them to look after the sick and save lives. For as long as this isn’t done, our situation will just drag on,” she said.