MANILA - The Philippine General Hospital (PGH), where the government last Monday launched the country's vaccination against the coronavirus, has noted a "steady increase" in its COVID-19 cases in the past week, its spokesperson said Sunday.
The PGH was also informed by the Philippine Genome Center that "one of 30 anonymized samples" from the facility was found to have the South African variant of the disease.
The largest COVID-19 referral hospital in the country has 105 virus patients as of Saturday, the largest in 4 months, according to Dr. Jonas del Rosario.
Fifteen healthcare workers were also found infected with the coronavirus in the first four days of March, he added.
"This high number in a short period of time prompted the PGH administration to take proactive measures such as extensive contact tracing, testing and quarantining those who were exposed and isolating those who are sick to curb further spread of the disease," he said in a statement.
"The hospital-based different clinical rotations of medical clerks and interns have been suspended to protect them from being exposed to COVID. Stricter protocols especially on infection control measures are being implemented."
The hospital has since temporarily suspended elective surgical procedures, and outpatient consultation must be done via telemedicine, Del Rosario said.
The outpatient department will not receive walk-ins in the meantime, he added.
The PGH said kN95 mask will be the preferred face covering for those using "non-COVID areas" of the facility, and will be "strictly imposed in all wards, units and service areas where we see our patients and their watchers."
"All eligible staff" were also told to get their COVID-19 vaccine "soon for the added layer of protection we need," according to the advisory.
The PGH has around 6,300 staff eligible for vaccination against COVID-19, including 1,000 personnel in its quick substitution list, according to its chief, Dr. Gerardo Legaspi.
Some 75 percent of the staff in a poll conducted early February said they were willing to receive "any vaccine at that time," Legaspi said.
The government on Friday reported that the number of South African or B.1.351 variant cases in the country has climbed to 58, while that of the UK variant already reached 118.
First detected in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa in October, the South African variant has been found in more than 30 countries and accounts for more than 90 percent of SARS-CoV-2 samples in South Africa that undergo genetic sequencing.
The health department said that of the 52 new cases of the South African variant, one patient from Metro Manila already recovered, while the remaining 51 cases are currently active infections and are being managed.
There are also 42 mutations of "potential clinical significance".
On Saturday, the St. Luke's Medical Center also said that its number of admitted COVID-19 patients nearly doubled in the past few days, according to the hospital's chief medical officer.
"We have seen a steady increase in the rise ng COVID cases. This week alone, 'yung dati nating siguro max na 35, mga 50 to 60 na ngayon ang mga COVID beds na occupied ng mga pasyente," said Dr. Benjamin Campomanes.
The OCTA Research Group had warned of a possible "overwhelming" surge of infections in Metro Manila, which it said may be due to the spread of new variants.
"Tumataas na yung occupancy sa hospitals. Makati is over 70 percent critical care capacity, occupancy. Merong 3 or 4 others na above 60 percent na rin. And yung ICU occupancy, merong 3 LGUs na above 70 percent. So, medyo mabilis tumaas yung ICU occupancy natin," Prof. Guido David, a member of the group, told ABS-CBN TeleRadyo on Sunday without identifying the facilities.
(The occupancy rate in hospitals has gone up... There are 3 or 4 others that are above 60 percent. And, as regards ICU occupancy, three LGUs are above 70 percent. So, there is a slight increase in our ICU occupancy.)
The country as of Saturday reported a total of 591,138 COVID-19 cases, with 43,323 active infections.
The Philippines rolled out its COVID-19 vaccination program last week beginning with the PGH using jabs donated by Chinese drugmaker Sinovac Biotech.
Del Rosario said that amid the surge in cases in the hospital, vaccination there will continue, with the vaccine from AstraZeneca to be rolled out this week.