MANILA (UPDATE) - Active COVID-19 cases in Mindanao have surpassed those in the National Capital Region, the Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday said.
As of June 2, there are 11,391 active COVID-19 cases in Mindanao, according to data from DOH, while Metro Manila has 10,174.
Cagayan and Central Luzon regions, meanwhile, "have the highest cases and fastest incline," but a spike in new cases was also observed in Davao City and the Zamboanga region most likely due to more contagious foreign variants in the country and the non-observance of basic health protocols like proper wearing of face masks and frequent hand washing, said DOH Epidemiology Bureau Director Alethea De Guzman.
"Kung pag-uusapan natin yung bilis at pagtaas ng kaso, the Mindanao cases as a whole is higher than the cases we are seeing now in Luzon and NCR," she said in an online press conference.
(If we are talking about the speed in the rise in cases, the Mindanao cases as a whole is higher than the cases we are seeing now in Luzon and NCR.)
"The core of it talaga is adhering to the compliance with the public health standards," De Guzman said.
"[Some people think na] nakakapagod na. 'It's a year, do i still want to wear face mask, do i still want to wear face shield?'" she said.
Earlier this week, at least 40 employees from various departments of the Davao City Hall and Sangguniang Panglungsod (SP) tested positive for the coronavirus. Most of them worked at the first floor of the building.
Despite the rise in cases, the DOH is not keen on recommending a regional lockdown, the Health official said.
"We need to be rational in our imposition of heightened community restrictions... Mobility restriction limits contacting. Pero hindi naman mobility restriction lang ang kasagutan," she said.
"We can decrease contact rate by not being part of superspreader events. We want to lessen the duration by which one person could continually infect others," she said.
The DOH urged local government units to impose granular lockdowns in villages or areas where there are many symptomatic patients, and to immediately quarantine those who are showing symptoms of the disease.
"If we can reduce to 5 days the time of detection to the time of isolation, we can reduce by a third the number of cases," De Guzman said.
SOME HOSPITALS IN MINDANAO REPORT CRITICAL ICU RATE
The continuing spike in fresh COVID-19 cases in Mindanao has already overwhelmed some medical facilities there, with intensive care unit (ICU) bed allocations already at near or full occupancy.
The Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC), the largest public hospital in the Philippines, has its bed capacity on “critical level” already.
In a graph published by SPMC, as of June 1, all of its 87 ICU beds are fully occupied, while 279 out of its 312 ward beds are currently being used.
“Full ang ICU 87 beds, 100 percent, then very critical level ang isolation ward for COVID,” Dr. Ricardo Audan, the hospital's chief, said in a text message.
(The 87 ICU beds are fully occupied, and the COVID-19 isolation ward is already at the very critical level.)
Audan, in a virtual presser last Monday, said there were plans to extend the hospital’s emergency room as its capacity also increased to 130 to 140 percent recently.
He attributed the surge in infections there to the “public’s complacency” for the past months.
“Bumaba talaga tayo (Our cases decreased) for the month of March and April. Probably we were very complacent in these months that people are now going out for outings,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Davao Medical Center said 94 percent of its ICU beds are already used up, while 59 percent of its ward beds are also occupied as of Tuesday.
Davao de Oro Governor Tyron Uy confirmed earlier this week that the beds in their 4 provincial hospitals — Montevista, Laak, Maragusan, and Pantukan — are also nearing full capacity.
"If the surge of cases continues, we might need more bed capacity for our COVID-19 patients. If this happens, we will get to sacrifice the health and lives of the patients who are not infected with COVID-19," Uy wrote on Facebook in the local language.
The DOH Region 11 on Wednesday night logged 382 new COVID-19 in the region, while the total number of active cases there stood at 3,664.
The Davao City government on Wednesday requested the inter-agency task force to raise the city's quarantine classification to modified enhanced community quarantine again (MECQ) from June 5 to 31, to serve as a “circuit breaker” following the growing number of COVID-19 patients.
It earlier said it would ban non-essential government events in the highly-urbanized economic hub in Mindanao as active COVID-19 cases breached the 1,000 mark last week.
— With reports from Chrislen Bulosan