MANILA (UPDATE) - The public is urged to follow minimum health standards such as wearing of face masks and observance of physical distancing as there is an increase in COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila, a group of doctors said Sunday.
Severe to critical cases still prevail among the elderly while there is also virus clustering among family members, according to Dr. Pauline Convocar, president of the Philippine College of Emergency Medicine (PCEM).
"Nararamdaman na po namin ang pagtaas ng numero ng kaso ng coronavirus across all departments... Napapansin din po namin na meron po talagang family clustering," she told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
(We feel the increase in cases of coronavirus across all departments... We also notice that there really is a family clustering.)
The country on Saturday logged 3,439 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases, the highest daily jump in over 4 month's, pushing the country's total to 591,138. Active cases stood at 43,323, or 7.3 percent of the cumulative total.
Convocar urged the public to continue observing minimum health standards as she said the surge in cases may be due to new COVID-19 variants, relaxed virus restrictions, and complacency.
The increase in virus cases in Metro Manila, home to about a tenth of the county's population, is already a "big surge," said Professor Guido David, member of the OCTA Research Group.
The capital region tallied an average 1,000 COVID-19 cases in the past week and the virus' reproduction rate has risen to 1.66 and is "still increasing," according to David.
The positivity rate has also gone up from around 4 percent to 8 percent, he said.
"Unfortunately, this is a big surge na... Baka sabihin ng iba alarmist tayo but... this is really alarming number kasi mas mahirap na itong pigilan at this level. So, we really have to be stricter and we have to take some other measures kasi, so far, ang nangyayari kumakalat na siya to other parts of Manila," he said.
(Maybe, some will say we're being alarmist but these are really alarming numbers because it's hard to stop this at this level. We really have to be stricter and we have to take some other measures because it's spreading in other parts of Manila.)
David said occupancy rate in hospitals, consequently, has gone up.
He noted that the number of cases in Region 4-A is also slowly growing, although those in Cebu City, Lapu-lapu City and Talisay City in the Visayas are decreasing.
The government needs to enforce strict border control and "revisit" quarantine measures for inbound international travelers to prevent the entry of new variants, David said.
"The presence of the variants is one of the reasons. This kind of acceleration sa pagkalat (in the virus' spread) has not been seen sa (in the) previous variant," he said.
"Mahirap nating mare-restore ang economy natin kung itong variants pumapasok sa country natin at will," he added, stressing the importance of adhering to public safety protocols.
(We'll find it difficult to restore our economy if there are variants entering our country at will.)
Nearly a year after the country went on one of the world's strictest and longest lockdowns, the public health sector has learned how to manage its resources, the PCEM's Convocar said.
"We can’t afford another timeout. So kailangan na talagang makipag-dance (So we need to dance) and coexist with the virus. Posibleng mangyari pero (It's possible but) granting naman kasi the advances of technology and science, I really hope not," she said.
"I do not want na umabot tayo sa (that we'll get to the) point na (where) we’ll turn away patents, then they’ll do hospital hopping. Ngayon (Now), because of the structures in place, we can guide people where to go."
Convocar, however, said the "pandemic only unmasked and highlighted the problems pre-COVID."
"Pagkatapos sana nito, we should learn to build back better, to be read for, hopefully not, the next pandemic," she said.
"We have to address our human resources issues, our inadequacies in health. So kailangan talaga natin tutukan pa rin lalo ang public health natin."
(So we need to focus on the public health sector.)
The Philippines rolled out its COVID-19 vaccination program last week, using jabs donated by Chinese drugmaker Sinovac Biotech, and then those from AstraZeneca acquired through the COVAX Facility.
The pandemic curtailed the country's economy, with last year's gross domestic product registering -9.5 percent growth, the first contraction since 1998's 0.5 percent decline due to the Asian financial crisis.
The economic downturn was also worse than the 7 percent contraction recorded in 1984, making it the steepest post-war slump in Philippine history, using available PSA data dating back to 1947.