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‘SELF-DISCIPLINE’ PRESSED

Most infectious day: New COVID cases hit 8,773

The Philippines recorded its most infectious day of the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday, logging 8,773 new infections—a record that broke a slight slowing down of the spread of the COVID-19 bug as the government played catch-up and hospitals hit capacity.

Thursday was the second time this week that the daily case count topped 8,000, after new infections hit 8,019 on Monday.

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The Department of Health (DOH) said the country now had 693,048 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 13,095 of which had led to deaths as 56 more patients had succumbed to the severe respiratory disease.

The DOH said 574 more patients had recovered, bringing the total number of COVID-19 survivors in the country to 580,062.

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After the deaths and recoveries, the country was left with 99,891 active cases, of which, the DOH said, 95.0 percent were mild, 3.0 percent asymptomatic, 0.44 percent moderate, 0.8 percent severe, and 0.8 percent critical.

Slight slowing down

Earlier on Thursday, the independent research group OCTA reported a slight slowing down of the coronavirus reproduction rate, or the speed of its spread, across Metro Manila—1.91 on March 24 from 1.99 last week.

OCTA, however, said it was still “too early to tell” if the downtrend would continue through a two-week general community quarantine in Metro Manila and the neighboring provinces of Laguna, Cavite, Rizal and Bulacan.

Benhur Abalos, head of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), welcomed the OCTA finding, which he quickly attributed to increased mass testing in the cities, but nevertheless called for continued public cooperation.

“The government can’t do it alone,” Abalos said in a public briefing.

OCTA said Metro Manila remained “high risk,” with 71 percent of hospital intensive care units occupied, breaching the 70 percent critical level.

Daily new COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila averaged 3,804 from March 18 to 24, a 61 percent increase from the previous week or just before the government expanded the coronavirus curbs in the metropolis to the four nearby provinces and tightened the restrictions to suppress a surge in infections.

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In an earlier briefing, OCTA fellow Guido David said it could take four weeks before the restrictions actually pay off.

Hard to sustain

OCTA said the numbers went down in areas previously placed on lockdown, like Malabon and Navotas, a downward trend was hard to sustain in a “very interconnected metropolitan area” where neighboring cities were still experiencing a rise in cases.

The virus has regained its “momentum” to trigger the current surge, OCTA said.

“[We also] need to monitor closely the trends in Batangas and Pampanga, [which are outside the quarantined region] but are also seeing a rise in new cases,” it added.

As of March 23, Batangas had a 141 percent increase in new cases, while Pampanga had an 86 percent increase over its average daily cases last week.

Of the 52 villages with the most number of new cases (between March 18 and 24), Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City recorded the highest, with 342.

Four villages on the OCTA list were in Rizal province—Barangay San Isidro (164 cases), San Andres (147), and San Juan (124) in Cainta and Barangay Mayamot (119) in Antipolo City. The rest were in Metro Manila.

In presidential spokesperson Harry Roque’s regular news briefing, the MMDA’s Abalos reported that 159 areas in Metro Manila had been placed on lockdown to suppress pocket outbreaks of coronavirus infection.

He said Quezon City had the most number of shuttered areas, 56, followed by Manila, 41; Pasig, 37; and Navotas, 24.

Other cities in the metropolis with locked down areas, he said, were Caloocan, Makati, Muntinlupa and Parañaque.

Cooperation

Abalos called on residents of the metropolis to cooperate with the government and help one another to stop the rise in coronavirus infections.

“It’s just self-discipline [among] all the people, that’s it,” Abalos said.

The flare-up in new cases has put pressure on the health system, with three major hospitals in the metropolis hitting capacity.

Earlier this week, Philippine General Hospital (PGH), Lung Center of the Philippines, Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital and St. Luke’s Medical Center said their intensive care units were already full. PGH and St. Luke’s said they could no longer readily admit severe COVID-19 cases.

On Thursday, National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI) reached capacity, and appealed to ailing people to seek admission in other hospitals.

In a text message to the Inquirer, Dr. Rosemarie Liquete, the NKTI chief, said all 109 COVID-19 beds of the hospital were occupied and that 50 patients, some positive for the coronavirus and the others still waiting for their test results were being managed in the emergency room.

“We [will] transfer some of them to other hospitals, but other government hospitals are already full. [We explained the situation to the patients, but they] opted to stay in the [emergency room],” Liquete said. —WITH REPORTS FROM JEROME ANING AND NIKKA G. VALENZUELA

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TAGS: COVID-19 cases, DoH, health crisis, latest count, lockdown, pandemic, surge in numbers
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