The Philippine government is implementing measures to address the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in the country, particularly through intensified testing, tracing, isolation, and treatment, according to Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque Jr.
In a press briefing held in Davao City on August 11, Secretary Roque discussed the steps being undertaken by the national government to reverse the surge in COVID-19 cases and to make the two-week MECQ period in the National Capital Region (NCR) and nearby provinces work.
“Una, nagkakaroon po tayo ngayon ng agresibong pagte-test especially doon sa mga locked down na mga barangay. Sa ngayon, ang Pilipinas po ang pinakamataas mag-test sa ASEAN at mas mataas pa nga po tayo sa Korea at Japan,” said Sec Roque.
The Palace official also said that contact tracing is currently being intensified using the formula of Chief Tracing Czar Mayor Benjamin Magalong of 1:37 or that one COVID-19 positive patient has 37 close contacts who must be traced. However, Sec Roque said that the 1:37 ratio may not be feasible in some hotspot areas like the NCR because of the high number of cases, which is why they are targeting to do at least 1:10, or tracing 10 close contacts per one COVID-19 positive individual.
Further, aggressive isolation is also being done through Oplan Kalinga and the use of hotel rooms as temporary isolation facilities, said the Palace’s spokesperson.
Chief Isolation Czar Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar, in the same press briefing, said that the public can expect an improvement in ICU capacity in the coming week with 210 additional ICU bed capacity, as they expect to complete the construction of a new building in the East Avenue Medical Center (EAMC) by next week.
On-going construction of the Quirino Medical Center will also provide an additional 50-bed integrated emergency room, 50-bed intensive care unit, and 30 beds for moderate cases. Isolation rooms in the Lung Center is likewise being converted to become a 20-bed ICU facility, while a modular health facility for moderate cases along with a dormitory complex is being built at the Quezon Institute.
In terms of intensifying treatment strategies, Roque said that the government is continuously securing effective treatment interventions while building more ICU bed capacity. “Nasabi ko na po kanina na medyo kritikal po ang ating mga hospital pero naggagawa po tayo ng mga bagong ICU at bed capacity at kumuha ng mas maraming doctor, nurse, at medical personnel,” said Roque.
The Cabinet official also addressed issues with regard to the MECQ and how to make it work as it did in Cebu, citing data from the University of the Philippines (UP) Octa Research Monitoring Report for August 3-9. According to the report, despite the increase in the number of cases, the country’s COVID-19 reproduction number or R-naught has decreased from 1.65 to 1.12, while NCR’s R- naught also went down from a peak of 1.81 in the period of July 4-10 to 1.18 from August 3-9.
The UP study also showed that new COVID-19 cases have been decreasing in Cebu following the strict implementation of the ECQ and MECQ, as the province reported only 92 new cases from August 3-9 from a peak of 307 new cases from June 27-July 3. The study also noted that Cebu has already reached the less than one R-naught target, with 0.54 R-naught for the period of August 3-9, compared to 1.54 R-naught from June 27 to July 3.
According to the UP experts, the Cebu City experience can also be used as a template for Metro Manila to reverse the surge in cases. “Ibig sabihin kaya po natin pababain ang pakalat ng COVID-19. Nagawa ng Cebu, magagawa ng Metro Manila at ng karatig lugar,” Roque stressed.
The Palace and IATF spokesperson also underscored that the government’s COVID-19 strategy is continuously being improved to find the best solutions to the problems brought about by COVID-19. “We may not be as successful but I can assure you, everyone is working darn hard to find a solution to the problem. Kung magkulang man, well pagpasensyahan po, pero hindi nyo po maakusa ang gobyernong ito na natutulog sa pansitan,” Roque stressed.
Also in the same briefing, the Palace affirmed the announcement made by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on the offer of the government of Russia to provide the Philippines vaccine for COVID-19.
“The Philippines appreciates Russia’s offer of cooperation to jointly combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The Philippines stands ready to work with Russia on clinical trials, vaccine supply and production, and other areas deemed practicable by relevant Philippine and Russian agencies to address this global health emergency,” stated Roque. ### OPS-PCOO