MANILA - The Philippines’ daily tally of new COVID-19 cases may breach the 700,000 mark on Friday as infections continue to increase and hospital ICU beds nearing critical level similar to last year.
“For today, it’s possible we’ll see another record high. Like what I said in previous interviews we usually see a decline every Tuesday and Wednesday because these were from the tests conducted over the weekend when some labs especially the private ones are closed and output tends to be lower. The dip that we saw the other day was just merely a function of lower testing. But overall, in terms of expectations, it’s likely that we’ll breach 700,000 total cases and 100,000 active cases on the same day today,” ABS-CBN Data Analytics head Edson Guido said in an interview on ANC's Headstart.
Guido projected the numbers to get even worse before they even get better after the previous week’s cases surpassed the monthly totals in the past 4 months.
“For the past 4 months, we’re seeing a range of 42,000 to 51,000, that’s for one whole month. But if we look at the numbers, these past week, that’s from March 19 to 25, DOH (Department of Health) already reported more than 52.000. Imagine, the weekly total has already surpassed the 4 previous monthly totals. so that’s how bad the recent numbers are,” said Guido.
On Thursday, the Philippines recorded 8,773 additional COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 693,048.
“This current pace is really alarming. Just yesterday, we set a new record but if you look at the numbers the second to fifth highest daily tallies were also reported in the past week. What we’re seeing is one record high after another,” said Guido.
Guido attributed the surge to several factors including mobility, the presence of more transmissible variants, and complacency.
The government responded to the surge by enforcing the NCR Plus Bubble, putting in place additional restrictions until April 4 in Metro Manila and nearby provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal. The said areas are under general community quarantine.
Guido also backed the proposal of the OCTA Research Group to impose a 4-week modified ECQ to slow down the surge.
“That will definitely help because if you look at the top areas yesterday, it’s still NCR, Cavite, Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna—so these are still the same areas inside the bubble. It’s going to help in slowing down pace of the surge,” he said.
But for Guido, there is a need to scale up infrastructure and improve the contact tracing system which he sees as the “weakest point” in the pandemic response.
“We can’t be using mobility restrictions as our go-to options . It only helps you buy time. But at the end of the day, we have to scale up our infrastructure,” he said.
He added: "Up to now, we're still seeing the pen and paper mode of contact tracing. And, what’s more crucial, we still don’t have a unified contact tracing app and we also don’t know whether the information we submit is integrated on a wider central database because that’s the main purpose of having a contact tracing system. If things don’t improve, then we’ll always be a step behind the continuous spread of the virus and we’ll basically be left counting cases everyday.”
With more than a year into the pandemic, Guido said government needs to find new solutions to the problem.
“If we have to look into some possible data privacy issues, then I think its time to explore that option because the cases continue surging at this point and there’s still no end in sight more than a year into this pandemic,” he said.