Higher COVID-19 death rate noted in Metro Manila as cases nationwide near 900,000
MANILA, Philippines — The number of coronavirus cases in the country has risen to almost 900,000, with the case fatality rate nearly tripling over the past two weeks among those infected in Metro Manila.
The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday said 8,122 new virus infections had brought to 892,880 the country’s total case count.
The OCTA Research Group, meanwhile, noted that the case fatality rate for Metro Manila climbed to 5.4 percent in the past two weeks, from March 28 to April 13, almost three times the 1.82 percent case fatality rate recorded from March 1 to March 27.
In a special report, the independent research group said the higher case fatality rate could be due to an overwhelmed hospital care system and the different variants of COVID-19 that proved to be more infectious.
Most affected group
The group said people over 65 were the most affected, with nearly three of every 10 COVID-19 patients in this age group dying of the severe respiratory disease.
Although it reported less than 9,000 new cases for the second day in a row, the DOH maintained that the relatively low number was due to the low testing output on April 12.
In its daily case bulletin, the DOH said there were 173,047 active cases, or currently sick patients. Of this number, the majority, or 96.3 percent, are mild cases, 2.4 percent are asymptomatic, 0.4 percent are critical, 0.5 percent are severe and 0.31 percent are moderate.
The DOH also reported that 501 patients had recovered, bringing the total number of survivors to 704,386. However, 162 died, which pushed the death toll to 15,447.
In the same bulletin, the DOH said it removed 25 duplicates from the total case count, while 64 cases that were previously tagged “recoveries” were reclassified as “deaths” after final validation.
DOH data showed that 68 percent of the country’s intensive care unit (ICU) beds were already in use, though NCR showed a higher 88 percent use of ICU beds. And while 47 percent of the mechanical ventilators are in use nationally, 63 percent of these are in the NCR.
In a media briefing on Wednesday, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire reminded local governments to schedule the distribution of cash aid or “ayuda,” as they may become superspreader events “especially if people gather in small, enclosed spaces.”
According to OCTA Research, although the case fatality rate figure was based on “a smaller sample size of 284 deaths,” the possibility of it increasing “should not be ignored.”
The group noted “an increase from 11.28 percent (before March 28), to 28.6 percent after for the 65 and up age group.” The fatality rate for age 60 to 64 also increased in the past week, from 5.7 percent to 16.4 percent, while that for age 50 to 59 climbed from 2.7 percent to 8.7 percent in the same period.
With this new data, seniors “should be given priority [in] health-care access to be assured that they receive timely interventions,” OCTA Research said, adding that seniors should be encouraged to get inoculated with the COVID-19 vaccine.
The group said “the risk of mortality due to Covid-19 is much higher than the risk of complications due to the vaccines.” Health advocates, including a former health secretary, scored the government for its handling of the current wave of infection, saying that “the surge [of cases] did not come overnight.”
The surge should not have come as a surprise since there were plenty of signs and warnings from experts, said former DOH chief Esperanza Cabral in an online Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum on Wednesday.
Cabral and Doctors for Truth and Public Welfare cofounder Dr. Minguita Padilla also said the government did not do enough to cope with the overflow of COVID-19 patients seeking hospital admission, expressing dismay over what seemed to be the administration’s rudderless response to the pandemic.
More beds, staff
“I don’t know how I can be happy by saying that I have added 100 beds, when the need is really very much more than that,” Cabral said, responding to DOH One Hospital Command Director Dr. Bernadett Velasco, who had discussed the agency’s plan to add more hospital beds and hire additional staff in response to the increasing number of virus cases.
The DOH’s lack of planning and preparation showed a “lack of cohesive and inspiring leadership [from the top],” Padilla said.
Asked if they were referring to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III or President Duterte, Cabral said, “we’re talking of both.”
“The chair of the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) is Secretary Duque. He is secretary of health [and] the one who advises the President about the things to do. So both of them need to make their presence felt and inspire people. We need to see them,” Cabral added.
—WITH A REPORT FROM MARICAR CINCO
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