With reports of COVID-19 spike in recent days, with cases reaching around 3,000 in the last three days, the Palace urged the public to not be complacent and to continue adhering to the minimum public health standards even with the current availability of vaccines for medical frontliners.
“Ngayong may bakuna na, hindi po ibig sabihin ay kampante na lalo na at mayroong COVID-19 spike gawa ng mga coronavirus variants,” said Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque Jr in a press briefing on March 8, 2021.
Citing Department of Health data on “Confirmed COVID-19 Cases by Adjusted Date of Onset” as of March 7, 2021, Secretary Roque said that there is indeed a spike in the number of cases in the National Capital Region. Although he said that it is not yet confirmed whether the spike was caused by the reported new variants, Secretary Roque said that Filipinos should continue with wearing mask, washing hands, and practicing social distancing.
“At ngayong nandiyan na po ang bakuna, mga frontliners, huwag na pong mag-atubili, ‘wag ng mag-antay. Magpabakuna na po dahil kayo ang aming mga sundalo laban dito sa [coronavirus] na ito,” said the Palace spokesperson.
The Palace official also underscored that the current national health systems capacity is adequate to address the surge and to take care of people who will need to be hospitalized because of COVID-19. Sec. Roque emphasized that when the government declared an enhanced community quarantine in March last year to prepare the country’s healthcare capacity, the objective was achieved and hence, there are still adequate ICU beds (60%), isolation beds (65%), ward beds (75%), and ventilators (77%) in hospitals up to this day.
The availability of enough medical beds for COVID-19 patients was confirmed by Dr. Gerardo “Gap” Legaspi, medical director of the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH). Dr. Legaspi, who was a resource person in the said press briefing, said that it is not true that the UP-PGH had been overrun by COVID-19 cases, rather, there has been an increase in non-COVID cases admitted in the hospital in the past months. This is why there has been an increase in the utilization of hospital beds, including some COVID-19 dedicated beds, said Dr. Legaspi.
The UP-PGH Director said that the UP-PGH has opened up new wards to go back to the hospital’s previous capacity of as much as 150 available beds for COVID-19 patients. Dr. Legaspi also assured that the hospital has a leeway for its ICU capacity, and that the severe cases that are in the ICU currently are not as many as before.
Meanwhile, aside from the call to intensify the adherence to the minimum public health standards of wearing of mask, washing/disinfecting of hands, and social distancing, plus vaccination, the Palace also urged local government units to implement protocols.
“Dapat po dalhin sa mga isolation facilities ang mga nagpopositibo. Kinakailangan paigtingin po natin ang contact tracing at kinakailangan po ipatupad talaga natin ang minimum health protocols,” Roque said. This also includes ensuring enforcement of protocols in the barangay level, said Roque, such as ensuring that there are no violations to social distancing in communities.
Former Health Secretary Dr. Manuel Dayrit, who is also a resource person in the press briefing, agreed that a drop in compliance to the minimum public health standards plus an increase in the going out rate are probably the reasons for the ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases.
Dr. Dayrit likewise encouraged the public to continue to comply completely to the minimum health standards and that combining these with accelerated vaccination would be the way to go to cope with the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Dr. Hermogenes Saludes, a cardiologist from the Philippine Heart Center, encouraged medical frontliners to have themselves inoculated with available vaccines. Dr. Saludes said that it is important that medical frontliners protect themselves to also protect their patients and their families and to put an end to the pandemic. ### OPS-PCOO