The Philippines breached 300,000 coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases on Saturday as the Department of Health logged an additional 2,747 new infections.
With the total infections now at 301,256, the DOH also announced 787 recoveries on Saturday, bringing the total number to 232,906.
With 88 new fatalities, the death toll now stands at 5,284.
The top regions with cases in the recent two weeks were the National Capital Region (962 or 39 percent), Region 4A (419 or 17 percent) and Region 6 (233 or 9 percent). Top areas by newly announced cases are NCR, 1,115; Negros Occidental, 196; Cavite, 153; Laguna, 112; and Cebu, 107.
Active COVID-19 cases are at 63,066 nationwide, with 87.3 percent of cases classified as mild; asymptomatic, 8.8 percent; 1.2 percent at severe; and 2.7 percent at critical.
The DOH said three labs were not able to submit their data to the COVID-19 Data Repository System on September 25—Dr. Jorge P. Royeca Hospital, Philippine Heart Center, and Safeguard DNA Diagnostics.
Reported COVID-19 cases daily are on a plunge—for the fifth consecutive day on Saturday, in fact—but experts from the OCTA Research Team warned the national government against prematurely downgrading community quarantines, particularly in Metro Manila.
In its latest report, the OCTA team said the premature downgrade of the quarantine status in the NCR might increase the risk of a surge in the number of COVID-19 infections in December.
“The national government must sustain the GCQ status in the NCR coupled with further improvements in its testing, tracing and isolation programs not just to sustain the gains of the last MECQ but to also prevent a surge, especially around Christmas time,” the report said.
The OCTA research team is made up of experts from the University of the Philippines, University of Santo Tomas, and Providence College.
The OCTA research team showed that the number of daily cases reported decreased from 4,300 in early August to 2,988 in late September.
They added the rate of transmission, number of cases, positivity rate, and measures for hospital resource utilization are all on a downward in Metro Manila.
The UP OCTA research team also projected that the number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines may increase to a minimum of 380,000 to a maximum of 410,000 by October 31.
“The current trajectory (as of September 25) shows between 310,000 and 315,000 cases by September 30. It is likely we will reach the lower range of the previous projections, a very positive sign that we are headed in the right direction,” it said.
Meanwhile, the experts said the number of new cases reported in high-risk areas decreased in comparison to figures from last week. The areas include Bulacan, Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Negros Occidental, and Rizal.
According to the team, the positivity rate in Calabarzon was recorded at 14 percent while the positivity rate in Bulacan was recorded at 11 percent over the past week.
In Bacolod City, the reproduction number is 0.94 while its positivity rate is at 10 percent.
The researchers previously said that to flatten the curve, the reproduction number should be less than one while a number higher than one indicates that the virus is spreading.
Meanwhile, the current COVID-19 hotspots, regions where newly reported cases increased over a two-week period, are Benguet, Iloilo, Leyte, Misamis Oriental, and Nueva Vizcaya.
The team also advised the government to monitor as well as to expand the capacity of hospitals in NCR as well as other hotspots.
According to the researchers, the COVID-19 beds in Valenzuela, Makati, and Muntinlupa have reached the critical level, wherein over 70 percent have been occupied.
Eighty-two percent of the COVID-19 beds in Valenzuela are occupied, 71 percent of the beds in Makati are occupied, and 81 percent of the beds in Muntinlupa.
“Given the experience of the last surge, there is an urgent need to scale up capacities of our health care system,” they said.
They also advised the government to ensure the increased capacity of the national health care system; sufficient testing capability; sufficient supply of personal protective equipment for frontliners; more isolation facilities in the NCR and nationwide; and effective and aggressive contact tracing.
Vice President Leni Robredo has urged Presidential spokesman Harry Roque to review her suggestions on curbing the coronavirus pandemic after he challenged her to come up with a solution.
Robredo also urged, in an interview on radio show Basta Batas, Roque to issue “unifying” remarks during the health crisis instead of speaking along partisan lines.
“He should set aside the issue of who is an ally, who is not, refrain from remarking, this politician is yellow, don’t listen to him. He further polarizes the people,” Robredo said.
Roque earlier this week told Robredo: “I am challenging VP Leni. If she has a solution (to COVID-19) that doesn’t need a vaccine and a cure, reveal it and I’m sure she might just become president immediately if she could find one that doesn’t need a vaccine or medicine.”
The need for critical care among COVID-19 patients in hospitals in Metro Manila has eased, among “good indications” health officials are seeing amid the country’s continuing battle against the coronavirus pandemic.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said Saturday that the critical care utilization rate in COVID-19 epicenter Metro Manila has “gone down to about 60 percent” from a high of up to 81 percent— a level considered the “danger zone”— in August.
Critical care utilization rate refers to the number of beds in hospitals’ intensive care units, COVID-19 wards and ventilator facilities, reflecting the number of coronavirus patients in need of critical care.
Vergeire, in a briefing on state-run television, said: “Critical care utilization, use of ICUs, isolation beds, ventilators, we reached the danger zone in August, almost 80-81 percent. But now, critical care utilization is already down.”