MANILA— The need for critical care among COVID-19 patients in hospitals in Metro Manila has eased, among “good indications” health officials are seeing amid the country’s continuing battle against the coronavirus pandemic.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said Saturday that the critical care utilization rate in COVID-19 epicenter Metro Manila has “gone down to about 60 percent” from a high of up to 81 percent— a level considered the “danger zone”— in August.
Critical care utilization rate refers to the number of beds in hospitals’ intensive care units, COVID-19 wards and ventilator facilities, reflecting the number of coronavirus patients in need of critical care.
“Critical care utilization, use of ICUs, isolation beds, ventilators, umabot po tayo sa danger zone nung August... almost 80-81 percent. Pero ngayon po critical care utilization is already down,” said Vergeire in a briefing on state-run television.
(Critical care utilization, use of ICUs, isolation beds, ventilators, we reached the danger zone in August, almost 80-81 percent. But now, critical care utilization is already down.)
She said ICU bed utilization in the capital region was at 63 percent, while use of beds in COVID-19 and isolation wards was at about 53 percent.
Vergeire said this indicated decongestion in facilities and improvements in the country’s health system capacity to take in patients in need of treatment.
It was in August when Metro Manila and nearby provinces reverted to the stricter modified enhanced community quarantine for two weeks as exhausted health workers sought a timeout and warned the health system was on the brink of collapse.
This followed the rise in cases when quarantine restrictions were eased to revive the crippled economy.
Asked if the capital region was ready to shift to the more relaxed modified general community quarantine by October, Vergeire said the Inter-agency Task Force on pandemic response considers several factors before deciding to change quarantine levels.
While health authorities are seeing a longer time for COVID-19 cases and deaths to double, there remain specific areas in Metro Manila where clustering of cases have been observed, and this has to be considered, she said.
“This has to be balanced kapag nagdesisyon po at ito naman ay gagawin ng IATF,” she said.
(This has to be balanced when the decision is made and the IATF will do this.)
Metro Manila will remain under general community quarantine until the end of September, and government is expected to announce its quarantine status for the succeeding weeks before the lapse.
Vergeire reminded the public to continue observing health protocols and not let down their guard amid encouraging reports about COVID-19 in the country.
“Protect yourselves. Let us not be complacent because we are hearing gumaganda ang health system capacity. Patuloy pa rin po tayo sumunod sa protocols for health para makaiwas na maging infected at maproteksyonan ang ating pamilya,” she said.
(Protect yourselves. Let us not be complacent because we are hearing that our health system capacity is improving. Let us continue to follow health protocols to prevent infection and protect our families.)
As of Friday, COVID-19 cases in the country has reached nearly 300,000, the highest incidence in Southeast Asia. The Philippines has enforced one of the world's longest lockdowns, and government is counting on a vaccine to end the crisis.