DoH raises alert level in 37 areas, including 8 Metro cities

PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

Philippine health authorities have raised the alert level in eight places in Metro Manila and more than 20 areas in other regions due to the increasing number of coronavirus cases and hospital utilization rates.

This, as the country continues to battle a surge in coronavirus infections believed to be triggered by the more contagious Delta variant.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire said that Quezon City, Las Pinas, Muntinlupa, Pateros, Taguig, Malabon, Makati, and San Juan in Metro Manila are now under alert level four, the health department’s highest level based on the acuteness of coronavirus cases and health utilization rates.

“Alert level four areas are those whose risk classification have reached moderate to critical risk and whose utilization rate of either their total COVID-19 or ICU bed utilization are more than 70%,” she said during a virtual news briefing.

Several areas in the Cordillera region, the Ilocos region, Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao, the Davao region, and Soccsksargen were also placed under the same alert level, she added.

Sixty-one percent of about 3,800 intensive care unit beds in the country are in use as of Aug. 4, Palace spokesman Herminio L. Roque, Jr. said on Thursday. He added that 53% of isolation beds and 52% of ward beds were occupied.

ICU occupancy in Metro Manila was at 59%, Mr. Roque said. Fifty-three percent of its isolation beds and 52% of ward are being used.

DELTA CASES

Also on Friday, the Department of Health (DoH) said 119 more people had been infected with the Delta variant, which was first detected in India, bringing the total to 450.

Of the additional Delta cases, 93 were locals, 20 were returning Filipinos, and the identities of six were still being verified, it said.

Of the 93 local cases, 18 had addresses in the National Capital Region, 14 in Southern Tagalog, 18 in Central Luzon, 31 in Western Visayas, eight in Northern Mindanao, and one each in Central Visayas, Eastern Samar, Zamboanga Peninsula and the Cordillera region, the agency said.

“Based on the case line list, 118 cases have been tagged as recovered while one has an outcome that is being verified,” it said.

The DoH said that Delta cases have been detected in all 17 cities and one municipality in the capital region.

The agency said 125 more people had been infected with the Alpha coronavirus variant first detected in the United Kingdom, bringing the total to 2,093.

It added that the country had 2,362 cases of the Beta variant after 94 more Filipinos got infected with the virus strain first detected in South Africa.

Metro Manila has been placed under the strictest lockdown level – Enhanced Community Quarantine or ECQ – which will run from Aug. 6 to 20. This after public health researchers from the independent OCTA research group had warned that there might already be community transmission of the Delta variant in the NCR.

According to the World Health Organization, community transmission “is evidenced by the inability to relate confirmed cases through chains of transmission for a large number of cases, or by increasing positive tests through sentinel samples (routine systematic testing of respiratory samples from established laboratories).”

VACCINATIONS TO CONTINUE

Philippine pandemic officials earlier said the vaccination drive in Metro Manila would continue during the two-week enhanced lockdown, noting that the National Government would allot four million more vaccines for the region

Meanwhile, a support group for families and friends of political prisoners urged the government to consider its appeal to prioritize more than 215,000 prisoners in its coronavirus vaccination program

“We stress that no one should be left behind to ensure the effectiveness of any mass immunization program against COVID-19,” the organization, Kapatid, said in a statement. “Prisons and the communities surrounding them are inextricably linked.”

The government seeks to fully vaccinate 15 million Filipinos by the end of the month and sustain the average daily vaccination of 600,000 to 700,000, Health Undersecretary Myrna C. Cabotaje said earlier.

The government is currently inoculating health workers, outbound migrant Filipino workers, family members of health workers, seniors, seriously ill people, essential workers, and the poor. Those not in these priority groups will get vaccinated as early as next month.

CASE TALLY

The DoH reported 10,623 coronavirus infections on Friday, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 1.63 million.

The death toll rose to 28,673 after 247 more patients died, while recoveries increased by 3,127 to 1.53 million, the health department said in a bulletin.

There are 74,297 active cases, 94.8% of which were classified as mild, 1.2% were asymptomatic, 1.8% were severe, 1.18% were moderate, and 1% were critical.

The DoH said 94 duplicates had been removed from the tally, 87 of which were tagged as recoveries and one was reclassified as death. The agency said nine recoveries were tagged as active cases, while 150 recoveries were reclassified as deaths.

One laboratory was not operational on Aug. 4, while five labs failed to submit data. — Kyle Aristophere Atienza

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