CLOSE to 400 barangays in the National Capital Region (NCR) and Cebu City are seeing clustering of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases, an official of the Department of Health (DOH) said yesterday.
In a virtual press briefing, Health undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said they are closely monitoring a total of 378 barangays in Metro Manila cities and in Cebu City.
“In Cebu City, we have 64 barangays found to have clusters; while in NCR, we have 314 barangays reported to have these clusters of cases,” said Vergeire. There are 80 barangays in Cebu City, and 1,710 barangays in Metro Manila.
Based on the latest data of the DOH, Metro Manila saw 1,482 new cases this past week, while Central Visayas had 1,188 new cases.
In addition, the health official said they have also identified three “closed settings,” where clustering of cases have also been observed.
“We have identified 3 closed settings in the NCR, including the one at the MRT, which we are closely monitoring,” said Vergeire.
According to the Department of Transportation, a total of 186 personnel of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Line 3 have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Sunday afternoon.
Vergeire said the DOH is also closely observing the situation in Cebu City, Cebu province, Lapu-Lapu City, Mandaue City in Central Visayas, as well as the City of Manila and Quezon City in the NCR.
“These are the top six areas that we are closely monitoring after seeing high number of cases during the past week,” said Vergeire.
Records show that Cebu City had 469 new cases over the past week; followed by Cebu province with 234; Lapu-Lapu City with 176; Quezon City with 110; Mandaue City with 101; and the City of Manila with 93.
Vergeire warned the public against going to areas with high cases of COVID-19 cases. “If you are going to a place where there’s a high transmission, we are recommending that you do not do that at this time or until the situation is cleared. Don’t go to areas with identified community transmissions,” she said.
Similarly, the health official said those coming from areas with clustering of cases must first undergo quarantine protocols.
“If you come from areas with community transmission and you are headed to places with no such transmission level, you’re supposed to go under quarantine since you’re coming from a high risk area,” said Vergeire.
CRITICAL CARE RATE
Vergeire said that while critical care resources in Cebu City hospitals are already at the critical level, those in Metro Manila are not far behind as they are now considered to be in the “moderate risk level”.
Vergeire added that critical care utilization rate in Metro Manila hospitals, particularly government-owned, are also already beginning to surge. “The critical care utilization rate is different across regions. And for NCR, it is about 60 plus percent now,” she said, adding that: “There is no shortage yet, although they are already at the moderate risk level of their critical care resources.”
Data released by the DOH shows that, as of July 5, the critical care utilization rate in NCR hospitals is at 63.41 percent, with isolation bed utilization at 63.41 percent, ICU bed utilization at 48.61 percent, and mechanical ventilators utilization at 29.80 percent.
For government hospitals in Metro Manila, Vergeire noted that isolation bed utilization is at 68 percent, ICU bed utilization at 51 percent, and mechanical ventilators utilization at 29.80 percent.
Asked where the surge in the critical care utilization rate can be attributed to, the health official said it could be because many hospitals are not compliant to the required 30 percent allocation of beds for COVID-19 cases.
DOH Administrative Order No. 2020-0016 provides that “at least 30 percent of all public and private hospital beds must have the capacity to accommodate and service COVID-19 patients”.
“All hospitals were mandated to allot 30 percent of bed capacity for COVID-19. But not all hospitals complied to this,” said Vergeire.
She said this is also the possible reason why there are private hospitals that make claims of already reaching full capacity
“If they say that they are already at 100 percent capacity, this will be based on number of beds allocated for COVID-19, and not the entire hospital… therefore, there is still room for every hospital to expand more,” she said.
Later on Monday afternoon, Vergeire said 11 private hospitals in Metro Manila have reported a 100 percent utilization rate of their COVID-19-dedicated ICU beds.
These are the Veterans Memorial Medical Center, University of Santo Tomas Hospital, University of Perpetual Help Dalta Medical Center, Tondo Medical Center, AMOSUP Seamen’s Hospital Manila, Philippine Children’s Medical Center, Metro North Medical Center, Las Piñas Doctors Hospital, De Los Santos Medical Center, Chinese General Hospital and Medical Center, and Capitol Medical Center.
Also nearing full capacity are the Lung Center of the Philippines (97%), East Avenue Medical Center (89%), and UERM Memorial Medical Center (83%).
“We are just referring to the dedicated beds for COVID-19,” Vergeire pointed out.
Vergeire said they have instructed the private medical establishments to comply with the 30 percent requirement for COVID-19 bed allocation.
“We must be sure that we have 30 percent of our beds allocated for the COVID-19 response as we are ramping up our health system capacity,” said the health official.
She added that the hospitals were advised to be prepared to implement an additional 20 percent surge capacity, if and when needed. “Data shows we still have the capacity to meet the demand,” she added.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said DOH undersecretary Leopoldo Vega has been tasked to head the Hospital One Incident Command that will determine the rate of critical care utilization and hospital care and capacity.
National Task Force on Covd-19 spokesman Restituto Padilla said that based on their data about two to three private hospitals are already nearing their bed capacity for COVID-19 patients. He refused to name the hospitals.
Padilla said it is still at a manageable level but the government hopes to utilize more the existing isolation and quarantine centers, including the Bayanihan to Heal as One Centers that were established to house COVID patients, particularly mild and asymptomatic patients.
Roque said Metro Manila, which is now under the general community quarantine (GCQ), may revert back to the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) if the situation worsens.
He said the President would again decide on the quarantine levels after July 15 based on scientific data and a balance between public health and the economy, especially after economic managers had warned that “we cannot afford another complete lockdown.”
And while the number of patients is growing in some hospitals, the DOH said 11,018 COVID-19 cases are under home quarantine.
Vergeire said the Cordillera Administrative Region has the most patients under home quarantine with 3,571; followed by Central Visayas with 2,189; and Ilocos Region with 2,184. The National Capital Region has a total of 491 patients under home quarantine.
Vergeire said the high number of patients under home quarantine can be attributed to the fact that 94.3 percent of the cases only have mild symptoms, while another 5.1 percent are asymptomatic.
On the other hand, Vergeire said severe cases are only at 0.5 percent, while critical cases are at 0.1 percent. – With Jocelyn Montemayor