MANILA (UPDATE) - Hospitals in Metro Manila are projected to reach full capacity by Holy Week if government fails to slow down COVID-19 transmission, OCTA Research said Saturday.
If the current reproduction number of around 1.9 continues, total bed and intensive care units for virus patients will reach full capacity by the "first week of April," the independent group of researchers said.
"These projections suggest that the current surge in the capital is at a critical juncture," they added.
Reducing the reproduction number to 1.5 will delay this event by 2 weeks to mid-April, the group said.
"Unless the national government and our LGUs take drastic and immediate action to significantly reduce the reproduction number of the surge in Metro Manila, we should expect our hospital facilities and medical frontliners to be overwhelmed within a period of several weeks, just around and after Easter," OCTA said in its latest report released early Sunday.
The region's hospitalization and mortality rates are estimated at 11 percent and 18 percent, respectively, based on the experience of Quezon City's residents, the group said.
It "assumed" a total bed capacity of 8,500 with 750 ICU beds, more than the current 8,300 bed capacity with 738 ICU beds to "provide a best case scenario."
The group also "assumed" patients who survive spend some 27 days in the hospital and patients who die spend 10 days in a medical facility.
The researchers also did not take into account the spread of COVID-19 variants.
"We wanted to present the best case scenario. We assumed that patients are hospitalized 7 days after onset of symptoms on average," it said.
More than half or about 54 percent of isolation beds and 64 percent of ICU beds in the region were occupied by virus patients as of last week, said the country's COVID-19 treatment czar, Health Undersecretary Leopold Vega.
Hospitals in nearby regions can be tapped if Metro Manila's healthcare utilization rate continues to increase, Vega added.
Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in the capital region, Calabarzon, and Central Visayas have risen in the "past few days," said Dr. Jose Rene De Grano, president of the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines.
Around 93 percent of virus patients suffer from a mild case of COVID-19, while 3 percent are asymptomatic and the rest are either in severe or critical condition, he said.
"Sa ngayon po, medyo critical na nga po ang situation. Pero habang kaya po ng private hospitals, nag-a-admit pa rin kami ng mga pasyente," he told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo, when asked about staff sufficiency.
(Right now, the situation is somewhat critical, but private hospitals will admit patients as long as they could.)
He noted though that during the peak of infections last year, there were more severe and critical cases being brought to hospitals. The quarantine facilities opened by local government units are also a big help now.
"Ang panawagan po sa ating mga kababayan, 'wag po tayo masyadong kampante... 'Pag naging available po, magpabakuna po tayo," he added.
(We are appealing to the public not to be complacent... If the vaccines become available, let us get them.)
ENFORCE, OBSERVE MINIMUM HEALTH PROTOCOLS
Government must strictly enforce minimum health standards to prevent virus spread and the public is urged to avoid social gatherings, said Dr. Benito Atienza, president of the Philippine Medical Association.
"'Yung minimum health protocol, 'di na nasusunod. Parang nagsasawa na sila, parang pagod na ang mga tao," he said.
(Minimum health protocols are not being followed. The public seems to be tired of observing these.)
"Sundin natin ang minimum requirement. Higpitan natin ang minimum protocol, lalo na ngayon madaming dadalaw ng simbahan, mag-Visita Iglesia. Siguro, ipagpaliban na muna natin."
(Let's follow the minimum requirement. Let's tighten protocols especially now that many people are expected to visit churches for Visita Iglesia. Or better yet, let's postpone it.)
If movement cannot be avoided, strict border controls and contact tracing are important, Atienza said.
"Dapat maalarma tayo kasi mas mataas ang cases ngayon kesa last year... Dapat pahigpitin pa ang protocol," he said.
(We should be alarmed because cases are higher this year than last year. Protocols should be tightened.)
Metro Manila is home to around a tenth of the Philippine population, and accounts for a third of the country's economy.
Of the country's 656,056 cumulative total cases, as of Saturday, 275,230 are from Metro Manila. The region logged 4,059 new cases, based on the Department of Health's report on Saturday, accounting for nearly 51 percent of the 7,999 total new infections recorded nationwide.
Based on the same report, the capital region has 40,517 active cases, or a little over 50 percent of the nationwide total.