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Active COVID-19 cases may reach 430,000 without strict lockdown

ACTIVE coronavirus cases in the Philippines may almost quadruple to 430,000 by the end of April if stricter quarantine measures were not imposed, according to the Department of Health (DoH).

Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite and Rizal were at “critical risk” given the swift rise in infections, while Laguna is at high risk, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire told an online news briefing on Monday.

DoH reported 10,016 coronavirus infections on Monday, the highest daily tally since the pandemic started last year.

Monday’s tally surpassed the 9,838 cases reported on Friday, bringing the total to 731,894, it said in a bulletin.

The death toll rose by 16 to 13,186, while recoveries increased by 78 to 603,213, it said in a bulletin.

There were 115,495 active cases, 95.9% of which were mild, 2.4% did not show symptoms, 0.7% were critical, 0.7% were severe and 0.41% were moderate.

The agency said 14 duplicates had been removed from the tally, while 11 recovered cases were reclassified as deaths. Three laboratories failed to submit data on March 28.

Disease surveillance tool FASSSTER showed that active cases nationwide would probably reach 430,000 by the end of next month if lockdowns were not imposed, Ms. Vergeire said.

Active infections in Manila, the capital and nearby cities could hit 350,000, she added.

Healthcare use in Metro Manila was now at 63% and 58% in the Calabarzon region. Intensive care unit (ICU) occupancy was the “most worrisome,” with use ranging from 70% to full capacity for ICU beds in hospitals within the so-called National Capital Region bubble.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte placed Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite, and Laguna in a “bubble” for two weeks until April 4, allowing only essential travels inside and outside it.

He placed these areas under enhanced community quarantine, the strictest lockdown level, due to a surge in infections.

“This enhanced community quarantine aims to slow down the surge of cases, stop the spread of the variants, allow the health system to recover and of course to protect more lives,” Ms. Vergeire said.

Meanwhile, DoH said people with comorbidities must present medical certificates or prescriptions from physicians before they get vaccinated.

Ms. Vergeire said they should present  their medical certificates issued in the past 18 months or prescription in the past six months at vaccination sites. 

Presidential spokesman Herminio L. Roque, Jr. on Saturday said there would be simultaneous vaccinations of senior citizens and persons with comorbidities along with healthcare workers to speed up the vaccine rollout.

John Q. Wong, founder of health research team Epimetrics, Inc., said there are illnesses that increase a person’s risk for hospitalization or death.

These are chronic respiratory disease, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, malignancies, diabetes and obesity. These are the seven diseases that were prioritized, he said at the same briefing.

Mr. Wong said there are about 14.1 million non-elderly adult Filipinos with underlying conditions.

About 656,331 people have been vaccinated against the coronavirus as of March 27, DoH said.

About 9.5 million Filipinos have been tested for the coronavirus as of Mar. 27, according to DoH’s tracker website.

The coronavirus has sickened about 127.8 million and killed 2.8 million people worldwide, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization. About 103 million people have recovered, it said. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

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