COVID cases hit 200 mark; masking rule back at PGH

COVID cases hit 200 mark; masking rule back at PGH

/ 05:55 AM December 13, 2023

ON ALERT In this photo taken in June 2021, nurses work round the clock at the COVID-19 ward of the Philippine General Hospital in Manila. —RICHARD A. REYES

ON ALERT | In this photo taken in June 2021, nurses work round the clock at the COVID-19 ward of the Philippine General Hospital in Manila. (File photo by RICHARD A. REYES / Philippine Daily Inquirer)

MANILA, Philippines — The country’s daily average of COVID-19 infections has breached the 200 mark again, nearly five months after the lifting of the public health emergency in July, with the transmission of the novel coronavirus in Metro Manila on a gradual rise.

This developed as the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), the top COVID-19 referral facility during the pandemic, revived masking rules among its staff and patients within hospital premises amid worries of a new resurgence of the killer disease.

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Based on the latest COVID-19 case bulletin of the Department of Health (DOH) issued on Tuesday, the country logged an average of 260 cases per day in the week from Dec. 5 to 11.

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The figure represented a 36-percent climb from the previous week’s daily average of 191 cases.

The last time the country saw a daily average of more than 200 cases was during the period of July 17 to 23, the same week President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. lifted the public health emergency due to COVID-19. Since then, the national tally has averaged between 100 and 200 cases daily.

Of the total 1,821 people confirmed to have COVID-19 in the last week, 13 were considered severe or critical, accounting for less than 1 percent of total reported infections, the DOH bulletin showed.

Hospitalizations among COVID-19 cases nationwide remained at a low risk, with 16.5 percent of non-intensive care unit (non-ICU) beds and 13.6 percent of ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients.

Of those admitted, 9.6 percent or 228 cases were deemed severe or critical.

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Alert level 1

According to scientist Guido David of the research and polling firm Octa Research, the weekly positivity rate among COVID-19 cases in the capital region jumped to 13.4 percent on Dec. 10 from 10.2 percent on Dec. 3.

“We remind everyone to avoid being complacent amid the continued threat of COVID-19,” the DOH said in a statement.

It advised the public to adhere to the same public health guidelines when the country was still under alert level 1, by, among others, wearing a well-fitting face mask and staying in well-ventilated areas. “If experiencing symptoms, immediately isolate,” it said.

Under the lowest risk category for COVID-19, the wearing of face masks is mandatory at all times, whether in private or public indoor and outdoor areas, except when eating and drinking or during sports.

But with the lifting of the public health emergency on July 21 through the President’s Proclamation No. 297, all COVID-19 protocols were revoked, including masking, which remains optional at present.

On May 5, the World Health Organization said COVID-19 was no longer a global health emergency.

Based on monitoring by the Inquirer, the country recorded its biggest single-day case count on Jan. 15, 2022, with 39,004 confirmed infected with SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes severe respiratory disease. At the time, 280,813 people were ill with COVID-19.

Peak in 2023

From May 4 to May 10 this year, a total of 12,416 new cases were recorded in the country, based on the DOH’s COVID-19 tracker data, the first time this year that the number of weekly cases reached more than 10,000. The peak in the year occurred when 12,593 new cases were recorded in one week, from May 11 to May 17.

Over the weekend, PGH’s hospital and infection control unit (Hicu) released new guidelines on how the premier state hospital could contain the further spread of the novel coronavirus among its personnel and patients.

“Effective immediately, all patients, relatives, staff, and trainees are again required to observe the usual masking practices within hospital premises,” the PGH’s Hicu said in a Facebook post on Sunday.

“This means whether it is indoors or outdoors, and in clinical or nonclinical areas, such as offices, student lounges, and conference rooms,” it added.

Hicu stressed that anyone must use “at least a surgical mask” upon entering the hospital. Outside the hospital, people were advised to keep face masks on, especially in crowded or poorly ventilated areas.

It also strongly urged hospital staff and visitors to undergo testing, either via antigen or RT-PCR, and isolate for at least five days for mild symptoms or 10 days for those with a severe infection.

Those hospitalized or categorized as having weakened immune systems were advised to isolate themselves for up to 21 days.

Hicu said the “increase in the incidence of COVID-19 in the past seven days” prompted it to issue the latest advisory.

The Inquirer asked the PGH spokesperson, Dr. Jonas del Rosario, about any notable rise in bed utilization rates at PGH, but there was no immediate reply.

Flu-like illnesses

The country has been seeing a rise in other respiratory diseases, such as influenza-like illnesses (ILI), which soared to a total of 171,067 cases reported as of Oct. 28 this year. The number is higher by 45 percent compared with reported infections during the same period last year.

The recently reported clusters of such cases in China, including Mycoplasma pneumoniae, dubbed “walking pneumonia,” also drew international concern, prompting the DOH to review its surveillance on this pathogen.

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The DOH earlier confirmed that four cases of M. pneumoniae had been reported among ILI cases in the Philippines since January, but it stressed that this bacterial infection was “not new or unusual.”

“The DOH has previously detected M. pneumoniae using various methods. DOH surveillance systems are able to detect ILIs, and can confirm through laboratories what may be causing them,” the health department said in a statement last week.

—WITH A REPORT FROM INQUIRER RESEARCH
TAGS: COVID-19 cases

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