WHO exec cautions against easing COVID-19 restrictions in NCR

Robie de Guzman   •   September 14, 2021   •   69

MANILA, Philippines — An official of the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday cautioned the Philippine government against relaxing COVID-19 restrictions in Metro Manila amid the continuing spike in coronavirus infections.

Metro Manila is set to pilot a new quarantine alert levels system, placing the region under Alert Level 4 starting Sept. 16. The policy aims to make use of granular lockdowns and a 5-step system, which the government hopes will spur business activities.

Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO’s representative to the Philippines, said local authorities should be cautious in relaxing COVID-19 curbs in Metro Manila as this could overwhelm the healthcare capacity.

“Make sure that those restrictions are followed, that we don’t relax too much because we are not in a position where we can relax and experience further worsening of this transmission level because our health systems are just holding up,” he said in a televised briefing.

The latest government data on COVID-19 cases showed that 77 percent of 4,200 ICU beds nationwide are occupied.

Around 69 percent of 20,800 isolation beds in the country are also in use while 74 percent of 16,000 ward beds are occupied.

Data also showed that 57 percent of the more than 3,200 ventilators in the country are being utilized.

In the National Capital Region, 79 percent of the total 1,400 ICU beds are occupied.

Around 65 percent of the 4,500 isolation beds are in use while 74 percent of the 4,500 ward beds are being utilized.

Of the total 1,200 ventilators in the capital region, 62 percent are being used.

The Department of Health earlier said that the country’s COVID-19 classification remains at high risk.

“If there is a further increase in the current transmission level, it could lead to an overwhelming of the hospital systems. That’s why we need to be very careful in recalibrating how we respond to the current situation,” Abeyasinghe said.

While he acknowledged the Philippines’ increasing vaccination rate, Abeyasinghe said this is still not enough to ease restriction.

The alert levels system in Metro Manila will only allow outdoor dining at 30 percent venue capacity, and indoor dining for small groups of people who are fully immunized against COVID-19.

Religious gatherings and personal care services will also be allowed at 30 percent.

Gatherings for necrological services, wakes, inurnment, funerals for those who died of causes other than COVID-19 shall be allowed, but only limited to immediate family members.

Under Alert Level 4, the following are prohibited from going outside their residence:

  • Persons below 18 years old
  • Persons over 65 years old
  • Those with immunodeficiencies, co-morbidities, or other health risks
  • Pregnant women

Residents will only be allowed to leave their homes when accessing essential goods and services or going to work in permitted industries and offices.

Quezon City gov’t looking into possible causes of COVID-19 spread in 2 convents

Robie de Guzman   •   September 16, 2021

The Quezon City Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance Unit (CESU) is currently looking into the possible causes of COVID-19 outbreak in two convents in the city, the local government said Thursday.

In a statement, the city government said massive contact tracing efforts are underway to contain the further transmission of the virus.

A total of 114 individuals, including 64 nuns and 50 staff members, tested positive for COVID-19 at the Religious of the Virgin Mary (RVM) in Cubao.

At the Convent of the Holy Spirit, 22 individuals were confirmed to have caught the virus, including 13 nuns and 9 staff members.

The city government said both facilities have been placed under lockdown.

CESU chief Dr. Rolando Cruz said they became aware of the situation after the cases were recorded in the surveillance data reported by a testing laboratory.

“Hindi po tayo ang nag-swab sa kanila. Nagpa-test po sila sa iba at nang lumabas na ang resulta sa laboratory, na-record ito sa surveillance data,” he said in the same statement.

“Now, our team is conducting an investigation and intensive contact tracing to get more details about the matter,” he added.

Cruz said part of the ongoing investigation is to determine if any of the positive individuals had any close contact with anyone outside of their facility.

Initial investigation revealed that a nun at the Convent of Holy Spirit passed away due to COVID-19 in early September. A physical therapist in the facility was reportedly exposed to the patient.

Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte earlier ordered the CESU to conduct active surveillance of closed settings in the city such as nursing homes and convents after 122 people, including 99 children, in an orphanage tested positive for COVID-19.

COVID-19 reproduction rate in NCR slows down to 1.28 – OCTA

Robie de Guzman   •   September 16, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The reproduction number of coronavirus disease in the National Capital Region (NCR) has improved in the past few days, the OCTA Research Group said Thursday.

In a report posted on Twitter, OCTA fellow Dr. Guido David noted that NCR’s reproduction number, which refers to the average number of secondary infections by each positive case, eased to 1.28 from Sept. 9 to 15.

This rate is lower than the 1.39 reported during the period covering Sept. 2 to 8.

David also noted that the one-week growth rate of NCR dipped to 9 percent from Sept. 8 to 15, compared to the 14 percent recorded from Sept. 2 to 8.

“Kapag bumaba iyong reproduction number kumakaunti ang hawaan, bumabagal ang hawaan. The growth rate will also decrease like ngayon sa NCR, 1.28 reproduction number growth rate is 9% kapag bumaba ang reproduction number to 1 iyong growth rate naman pababa to 0% then magiging negative,” David said in an interview.

“Kapag negative na ang growth rate ibig sabihin kumakaunti na ang cases natin… In fact, nationally 6% na lang ang nadagdag,” he added.

David also said that the capital region recorded an average of 5,819 cases per day over the past week, while the daily attack rate per 100,000 population climbed to 41.66 from the previous 38.24. It also registered a positivity rate of 25 percent.

He noted that the NCR has not yet peaked but there is hope that it may happen in one or two weeks.

“We might be getting close to the peak nationally… That’s why we have renewed again hope that we might not hit 30,000,” he said.

“Most likely today we’ll see 20,000+ cases […] even up to 21,000 to 22,000 but we hope na it will be controlled in the sense it will not exceed the previous high 25,000-26,000. Maybe the trend will start to decrease,” he added.

David also expressed hope that the country’s health system will be able to take a breather by next month if the downward trend continues.

“Based on the trends that we are seeing, by October I am predicting —hindi ito projection, may kasamang hope and prayer — that by October, downward trend na tayo,” he said.

“Pero iyong hospitalization will still remain high for foreseeable future up to the next few weeks,” he added.

He, however, called on the public to continue adhering to the minimum public health and quarantine protocols to help curb COVID-19 infections.

PH lists 21,261 new COVID-19 cases; death toll breaches 36K

Robie de Guzman   •   September 16, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines on Thursday recorded 21,261 new COVID-19 infections, pushing the tally of cases to 2,304,192 since the pandemic began in 2020.

The Department of Health (DOH) said the additional cases pushed the country’s active tally to 177,946.

Of the active cases, 86.1 percent are mild, 9.2 percent are asymptomatic, 2.65 percent are moderate, 1.4 percent are severe, and 0.6 percent are in critical condition.

Meanwhile, total recoveries rose to 2,090,228 with 13,644 new recovered patients.

Fatalities climbed to 36,018 after 277 more patients succumbed to the viral disease.

Two laboratories failed to submit data on time, the DOH noted in its report.

Out of the 74,149 tests reported on Sept. 14, around 27 percent have been found positive for COVID-19.

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