President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is set to announce the new quarantine classification for the National Capital Region (NCR) and the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, and Bulacan tonight, August 17, said Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque, Jr.
Secretary Roque, in his regular press briefing, underscored that the President’s decision on the community quarantine classification will still be based on the case doubling rate and the critical care capacity, taking also into consideration the clustering of cases in Metro Manila.
“Of course, the cases will always have an impact on the decision pero sa tingin ko po alam na nating magtatagal ang COVID[-19] sa buong mundo at hindi lang sa Pilipinas, at alam na natin kung paano mabuhay with, despite and in spite of COVID,” Roque stressed.
The Palace official also stressed that the country’s case doubling rate is not yet in the critical level, while critical care capacity is strengthened with the addition of more hospital beds for COVID-19. “So far po, hindi naman po lumalala ang ating case doubling rate at dahil nga po today, August 17, nag-inaugurate tayo ng 250-bed capacity diyan sa East Avenue Medical Center (EAMC) that will cater exclusively to COVID patients, naibsan po yung ating critical care capacity,” said Sec Roque.
Addressing a question on critical care utilization already in dangerous levels in some local government units (LGUs) in Metro Manila, Roque said that the presence of the One Hospital Command Center counters that problem. “Because of the One Hospital Command Center, we’re utilizing all our bed capacities as if we have one giant hospital in the entirety of Metro Manila and including even the bed capacities of the adjoining provinces,” said the Palace spokesperson.
Roque added that the One Hospital Command Center works as an effective referral system where patients needing hospitalization will be referred to hospitals with available bed capacity, thereby eliminating the need to line up in emergency rooms. The Palace spokesman, who is also the concurrent IATF Spokesperson, advised patients or relatives of COVID-19 patients to use the One Hospital Command Center hotlines (02-886-505-00, 0915-777-7777 and 0919-977-3333) to know where to bring their patients.
Aside from the newly inaugurated building in the EAMC, Secretary Roque said that the country’s critical care capacity will be strengthened in the coming weeks with additional bed capacity coming from the expected completion of construction in the Quirino Memorial Medical Center and the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital. An additional 500-bed capacity isolation facility will soon rise as well in the Nayong Pilipino in the coming weeks, said Roque.
In the same press briefing, Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion, who also leads Project Ark, discussed the use of pooled testing to increase the country’s testing capacity. Concepcion said that they are currently doing pooled testing with pools of five, that is, five people to one test kit.
Concepcion said that while Project Ark used rapid antibody tests before due to a lack of PCR capacity to conduct massive targeted testing, they have now shifted toward pooled PCR testing as the capacity to test using PCR tests has improved. He added that using pooled PCR testing can bring the cost down to about P750 for pools of five. Aside from the lesser cost of testing, Concepcion said that the speed of testing will also be faster with pooled testing as one test kit can be used for five people.
Marikina Mayor Marcelino Teodoro, who also joined the Presidential Spokesperson in the said press briefing, affirmed that enhanced targeted testing in Marikina, done in coordination with Project Ark, has helped increase the city’s testing capacity.
Teodoro said that on the average, Marikina City can do some 800 PCR tests daily, even reaching up to 1,000 tests on a certain day, which the Mayor attributed to the presence of an accredited molecular laboratory in the city and intensified contact tracing activities. Mayor Teodoro added that they also put up temporary quarantine facilities in Marikina to house and manage COVID-19 positive individuals.
As of August 16, the Philippines has a total of 46,002 active COVID-19 cases with 112,586 recoveries and 2,665 deaths. ### OPS-PCOO