MANILA — The Philippines is studying a wider travel ban and is banking on higher intensive care capacity to avoid the COVID-19 situation in India, where a surge in coronavirus infections threatens to overwhelm the healthcare system, Malacañang said on Monday.
Authorities have increased the intensive care unit (ICU) beds in Metro Manila, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, to 1,148 beds, from the previous 781, said treatment "czar" Leopold Vega.
"Now, are we going to stop at 1,000? No," said Palace spokesman Harry Roque. "We are proceeding to come up with additional ICU beds."
"That’s part and parcel of the foresight kasi nga (because) we can never say if what happened to India will not happen," he said in a press briefing.
The Philippines has suspended the entry of travelers from India until May 14, Roque said.
However, he noted that the World Health Organization warned that travel curbs should include areas with a high traffic of passengers from India, like the Middle East.
"Iyan po ang problema ngayon, dahil hindi naman natin pupuwedeng i-ban ang mga bansa, ang mga biyahero galing sa Middle East lalung-lalo na dahil ang dami nating OFWs doon," said Roque.
"Pinag-aaralan po ngayon iyan," he added.
(That is the problem right now because we cannot ban countries, travelers from the Middle East, especially since we have many Filipino workers there. That is being studied.)
India reported more than 300,000 new coronavirus infections for a 12th straight day on Monday to take its overall number of cases to just shy of 20 million.
Medical experts say actual numbers across the country of 1.35 billion may be five to 10 times higher than the official tally.
Hospitals have filled to capacity, medical oxygen supplies have run short and morgues and crematoriums have been swamped as the country deals with the surge in cases.
Meanwhile, the Philippines has tallied 1,062,225, coronavirus infections, of which 69,466 were active, as of Monday.
Metro Manila and several other areas are under the second strictest quarantine level to arrest the spread of COVID-19.
– With reports from Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News; Reuters