Doctors caution against easing of quarantine
A week before President Duterte is expected to announce new quarantine levels, the medical community advised the government to be cautious about further easing control measures as new infections have yet to drop to a significant level while there is a steady rise in the number of severely and critically ill COVID-19 patients.
The Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19 pointed out Tuesday that while the number of new COVID-19 cases was slowly declining, there was still a need to carefully consider the further loosening up of quarantine measures as the country risks seeing yet another surge in infections.
“We can now see a slow decline in the number of new cases, but it hasn’t dropped to a significant level. Right now we’re under general community quarantine, where we have somehow loosened up. Yet we can already see many people disregard or do not follow the health protocols,” said Dr. Maricar Limpin of the Philippine College of Physicians, one of the alliance’s lead organizers.
Manila Beach crowd
For instance, Limpin said that when authorities opened an artificial white-sand beach on the Manila Bay shore on Sunday, hundreds of people flocked to the area and failed to observe physical distancing.
“That’s why we repeatedly call that we think this through. If we really want to effectively control this pandemic, we must follow all health protocols, which include the wearing of masks and face shields and maintaining a distance of 1 meter,” Limpin said.
Amid calls to further relax the six-month-old quarantine measures, Dr. Antonio Dans, the spokesperson for the alliance composed of more than 160 medical societies, said the question now is if all sectors of society are already at that point where they can say they are ready to dance with the virus.
“Are we ready? Is the transportation [sector] ready to implement all the safety measures? Are the employers ready to ensure the workplace is safe? Are the people ready [to strictly observe the] wearing of masks, face shields, and observing physical distancing?” Dans asked.
“Because if the answer is we are ready to dance with the virus—that we already know everything that should be done—then why not. We should lighten the lockdown,” he added.
Apart from the number of new infections, Limpin said the government should look into the growing number of patients who are severely or critically ill.
Data from the Department of Health (DOH) showed that on Aug. 1, there were only 350 patients classified as severe, while 246 were critical. By Sept. 1, there were 620 severely ill patients, while those in critical condition had increased to 908.
As of Sept. 20, the figures had ballooned to 742 severe and 1,728 critical cases.
“While there have been fewer cases in the last few weeks, we are seeing more patients that need to be placed in the intensive care unit. Because of this situation, our [medical] front-liners still cannot rest,” Limpin said.
She explained that one of the reasons patients appear to be sicker this time is because a lot of them do not seek medical help at the onset of their illness. She noted that some waited up to a week before seeing a doctor.
“By then, their condition had already worsened,” Limpin said.
“This is why we emphasize … the need to improve our health-seeking behavior. That once you feel unwell, you’d consult a doctor … There are ways to prevent the disease’s progression. Therefore, it’s important that patients are seen at the right time so that their condition wouldn’t become severe,” she added.
On Tuesday, the DOH logged 1,635 additional infections, the lowest recorded daily increase this month. This is the second time this month that cases rose by fewer than 2,000.
On Sept. 3, cases increased by only 1,987, but at the time, 22 laboratories failed to submit their data on time to the DOH. This time, only nine laboratories were unable to submit their data on time.
Metro Manila accounted for a third of the new infections with 583, followed by Cavite (102), Iloilo (97), Rizal (67) and Cebu (57). The overall number of confirmed coronavirus infections stood at 291,789.
Of the newly reported cases, 1,435 fell ill between Sept. 9 and 22, while 98 got sick in August.
Deaths pass 5,000 mark
There were a total of 230,643 patients who had recovered from COVID-19 with the recovery of 450 more. The death toll, however, breached the 5,000 mark as 50 patients succumbed to the severe respiratory disease, bringing the total to 5,049.
Thirty-eight of the patients died in September, eight in August, three in July and one in April. Twenty were from Metro Manila, 10 from Western Visayas, eight from Calabarzon, four from Central Luzon, three from Zamboanga, two from the Cordillera Administrative Region, and one each from Bicol, Central Visayas and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The deaths and recoveries left the country with 56,097 active cases, of which 86.4 percent were mild, 9.2 percent asymptomatic, 1.3 percent severe, and 3.1 percent critical. INQ
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