COVID-19 spike could be ‘tip of the iceberg’ — DOH official

August 2, 2021 Lee Ann P. Ducusin 163 views

THE Department of Health expressed apprehension that the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases might only be the “tip of the iceberg.”

Health Undersecretary and treatment czar Leopoldo Vega said this is because the country’s capability to detect the more transmissible Delta variant is still limited.

For two consecutive days, the Philippines’ COVID infections rose to more than 8,000 with the Delta variant cases mushrooming in Metro Manila and other provinces. The Delta variant has been detected in 216 individuals so far.

“Itong pag-sequence ng Delta virus, hindi naman lahat ng positive RT-PCR kundi kaunti lang. Tingin namin baka nasa tip of the iceberg ang nakikita natin. Kailangan natin gumawa ng hakbang. Kung hindi natin ma-control ang transmission makahahawa talaga,” Vega said.

He said upticks in cases are seen in Metro Manila, Region 1, Region 4A, Region 6, Region 7, and Region 10, adding that most of the sequenced Delta variant cases, now at 216, are sourced from Metro Manila areas.

Asked to comment on Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire’s projection that infections may increase to 30,000, Vega said it could happen unless the government implements stricter measures such as the Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Treat-Reintegrate approach.

“Nakatatakot kapag walang ginawa, aabot ang projection na ‘yan,” he said.

Amid increasing Delta variant cases, Metro Manila will be placed again under the strictest enhanced community (ECQ) from August 6 to August 20 in a bid to avert possible surge in COVID-19 cases.

Meanwhile, the DOH said four big hospitals in Metro Manila will get more intensive care unit beds as the healthcare utilization rate rises in the capital region and other areas nationwide.

Vergeire said a total of 240 additional ICU beds will be put up this month in the Lung Center of the Philippines, National Center for Mental Health, East Avenue Medical Center, and the Quirino Memorial Medical Center.

She said the national healthcare utilization rate stood at 50% but noted that NCR, other areas are exhibiting already increasing healthcare utilization.

The health official did not specify which areas are seeing an increase in healthcare utilization. According to the DOH tracker, 46.6% of beds in the capital region were occupied as of July 31.

She added 755 ICU beds and 332 isolation beds have been added in Luzon since last year, as well as 314 isolation beds and 210 ICU beds in Visayas and 306 isolation beds and 190 ICU beds in Mindanao.

Vergeire said the DOH also noted an increase in deaths in certain regions of the country that were not identified, but added that the national case fatality rate remained below 2%.

“Ibig sabihin, dumadami po ‘yung severe and critical case dito sa mga area na ‘to. We are already flagging our local governments and the public na itong deaths natin ay medyo tumataas,” she said.

Vergeire also disclosed that health authorities have been pre-positioning medicines and oxygen supplies and procuring other logistical needs amid the threat of the highly infectious Delta coronavirus variant.

“Ang pinakaimportante, kahit magpatuloy ang pagtaas ng kaso, handa po ang sistema natin, pangalawa, marami nang nabakunahan and dahil marami nang nabakunahan, lesser ang chances na mapuno ang ospital,” she assured.

However, the Filipino Nurses United found the assurance “a complete denial of the reality on the ground,” noting that there are not enough health workers to meet the increased bed capacity.