MANILA — The Department of Health on Monday said one of the indicators the government is looking at in easing the current quarantine protocols for the National Capital Region is the occupancy of hospital beds and equipment.
“For health care utilization, we need to see that the utilization will be down to at least 60% before we can say we are at that safe level,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said when asked during a Palace briefing about what it would take for the government to de-escalate the enhanced community quarantine in NCR.
Vergeire said that the current health care utilization rate for the region is at 78% to 80%, which is classified as high risk.
She added that currently intensive care unit (ICU) beds are almost 100% occupied in all cities in Metro Manila.
“We need to bring it down so we are able to say that our health care system can manage,” she said.
She said this includes bringing asymptomatic and mild cases to quarantine facilities so that hospitals can prioritize those with moderate to critical conditions.
During the briefing, Vergeire said the number of patients who fell ill during the last week of March reached peak levels from the week before.
In terms of reported cases, there were 8,615 average daily cases reported during the last week of March, compared to just 1,400 average daily cases in January and February. For the National Capital Region, the average daily tally of cases is at 6,695, from just 400 at the start of January.
Of the NCR Plus Bubble areas, which includes Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal, 14 out of 21 areas are in moderate to critical risk level, Vergeire said.
There have been numerous reports of hospitals turning down patients. The government’s One Hospital Command hotline, which is supposed to address this problem, has also been swamped with calls.
She said this is why they will be assessing the health care utilization and other indicators weekly to check if they can lower restrictions.
The health official called on the public to utilize free telemedicine services offered by the DOH in partnership with the private sector.
COVID-19 cases in the Philippines reached more than 800,000 on Monday. The OCTA Group estimates it may reach 1 million by the end of April if the trend continues.
The surge in cases happened as the country administers COVID-19 vaccines to health workers, senior citizens, and persons with comorbidities. As of April 3, 795,320 people have received their first dose of vaccines.
But with 70 million people targeted to reach herd immunity, many are criticizing the government’s slow rollout of vaccines.