Not yet flattening the curve: DOH says COVID-19 clusters rising

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 23 2020 02:34 PM | Updated as of Sep 23 2020 02:54 PM

Doctors and nurses send off Francisco Del Carmen as he gets discharged from the World Citi Medical Center in Quezon City on July 9, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News​

MANILA — While there are improvements in the Philippines’ COVID-19 situation, the country has yet to see a flattening of the pandemic curve with clustered cases still rising, the Department of Health said Wednesday.

“Even with these indicators may nakikita pa tayo na specific areas na merong clustering, merong mga pagtaas ng kaso. Kaya at this point, we cannot really say yang sinasabing flattening of the curve,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a virtual briefing.

(Even with these indicators, we are seeing specific areas that have clustering, there’s an increase in cases. So at this point, we cannot really say that there is flattening of the curve.)

Vergeire said Philippines is however properly dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, citing improved critical care utilization rates, which includes bed occupancy in hospitals.

“If we try to look at these numbers we can see gradual kahit na paunti-unti but we are slowly hoping na nagkakaroon tayo ng pagdecongest ng sistema, nagkakaroon tayo ng mas maraming kapasidad para maka-accommodate ng mga pasyenteng nangangailangan for COVID-19,” Vergeire said.

(If we try to look at these numbers, we can see it gradually slowing down, slowly decongesting the system and having more capacity to accommodate COVID-19 patients.)

“This may not be a drastic improvement na sinabi natin nakabalik tayo sa safe level natin but at least we are seeing improvements in our health system,” she admitted.

(This may not be a drastic improvement wherein we are able to return to safe levels but at least we are seeing improvements in our health system.)

Vergeire said the critical care utilization rate for the National Capital Region (NCR) went down from a “high risk” level of 67% on Sept. 2 to a “medium risk” level of 58% on Sept. 20.

Among provinces, Cebu showed notable improvement, recording 35% critical care utilization rate by September 20. 

Vergeire meanwhile attributed the improvements in the hospital occupancy rates to the One Hospital Command for helping patients seek hospitals and the Oplan Kalinga for transferring those with mild symptoms to temporary treatment and monitoring facilities.

RELAXED QUARANTINE

Vergeire said Inter-Agency Task Force for COVID-19 has yet to discuss easing of quarantine restrictions in the Philippine capital, despite statements from Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez.

Lopez had said that Metro Manila could further ease restrictions and transition to the modified general community quarantine (MGCQ).

“Yung transmission rate that is just one of the many indicators that we use to monitor or to reach kung tayo ay nagiimprove o hindi. At kung tayo ay makakarating sa objective natin na sabi natin we would like to flatten the curve,” she pointed out.

(The transmission rate is just one of the many indicators that we use to monitor if we have improved and if we have reached our objective of flattening the curve.)

Vergeire said that despite the improving hospital capacity, the government "cannot be complacent at this point in time.”

She said case and mortality doubling times have also improved but they also found out that these are not sensitive enough to be used as a benchmark.

As of 4:00 pm Tuesday, Philippines has 291,789 confirmed coronavirus cases, 5,049 of which are deaths.