Duterte asks for patience, assures lifting of curbs

President Rodrigo Duterte assured Filipinos the government was doing  everything to improve their lives and vowed to lift the present quarantine restrictions once the situation stabilized.

“We are trying to do everything we can within the limited resources of government and, of course,  the opening,” President Duterte said in his weekly public address.

“But let me assure the people that once things begin to clear, we will lift the quarantine immediately without delay. I hope that you’d continue to listen to government” Duterte said.

In his speech, Duterte said the  Philippines was “doing good” in its fight against COVID-19 compared with other countries.

“Compared with other countries—not really the time to make comparisons —we’re doing good in the fight against COVID,” he said.

However, Duterte  admitted the country was far from acquiring enough COVID-19 vaccines to inoculate the target 50 to 70 million Filipinos, Duterte noted that more vaccines were arriving.

“We still have to have the vaccines in numbers because we have plenty of Filipinos to vaccinate,” he said.

The country now has three brands of COVID-19 vaccines in its inventory namely “Sputnik V” from Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, “CoronaVac” from China’s Sinovac Biotech, and “AstraZeneca” from a British-Swedish manufacturing company of the same name.

 “We don’t have a problem, I think, in the acquisition of vaccines because we have at least some guarantees from countries who honor the contract and they will come at the time we need them,” he said.

The President also said it was important for the people  to listen to health experts who provide valuable advice on how the country could navigate out of the pandemic.

Herd immunity

Vaccine baron Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said Tuesday the government expected to achieve its target of herd immunity in the National Capital Region and nearby provinces by November.

“We can have herd immunity in NCR and six provinces around NCR by November. We’re looking at 180 days,” Galvez said at a Palace press briefing, citing estimates from supply chain experts assisting the country’s mass vaccination program.

Galvez issued the statement a day after he disclosed the list of areas that would be prioritized to receive the doses in light of tight supply of vaccines.

He said the country would need 15 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines per month to inoculate 70 percent of the population and achieve herd immunity before the end of the year.

COVID updates

The Philippines logged on Tuesday  5,683 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the  total to 1,067,892, as 21 laboratories failed to submit their data on time, the Department of Health reported.

The day’s tally of new cases is the lowest in more than a month, or since March 18, when 5,290 additional infections were announced.

There were 66,060 active  cases, which is 6.2 percent of the total number of cases. Of the active cases, 94.6 percent were mild;  1.7 percent were asymptomatic;  1.2 percent were critical;  1.5 percent were severe; and 0.98 percent were moderate.

The DOH also reported 97 new fatalities, bringing the death toll to 17,622, which is 1.65 percent of the total.

The DOH also reported that, nationwide, 66 percent of the ICU beds, 45 percent of the isolation beds, 51 percent of the ward beds, and 42 percent of the ventilators were utilized.

Contrasting statements 

Contact tracing czar Benjamin Magalong and President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman on Tuesday issued what appeared to be contrasting statements as regards the StaySafe.ph, the contact tracing app developed for the country.

While Magalong raised the Department of Healths’s supposed misgivings about the application, developed by private firm MultiSys, Secretary Harry Roque said all controversies regarding the online tool had been resolved.

“It remains to be seen if this contact tracing app is highly reliable,” Magalong said at the Laging Handa briefing when asked if StaySafe.ph was already operational.

StaySafe.PH, on the other hand, wants to turn the house first before giving the key. That was the stalemate.

COVID variants

The Department of Health, the University of the Philippines-Philippine Genome Center (UP-PGC),  and the University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH) on Tuesday reported  the detection of  additional 289 B.1.1.7 variant cases, 380 B.1.351 variant cases, and nine P.3 variant cases from the 744  samples sequenced, based on the latest whole-genome sequencing report.

 Of the additional 289 B.1.1.7 variant cases detected, 48 cases are Returning Overseas Filipinos, 185 are local cases, and 56 cases are currently being verified if they are local or ROF cases.

Based on the  case line list, three  cases remain active while two have died and 284 have recovered.

 Of the additional 380 B.1.351 variant cases, 107 cases are ROFs, 196 are local cases, and 77 cases are  currently being verified if they are local or ROF cases. Based on the case line list, one case is still active and  379 cases have been tagged as recovered.

 Of the nine additional P.3 variant cases, three  are ROFs, four are local cases, and two  cases are being verified if they  are local or ROF cases. Based on the case line list, all nine  cases have recovered.

March surge

The Philippines’ COVID-19 fatality rate increased  to 2.1 percent in April, the Department of Health said.

 This, following the surge  in new infections beginning March this year.

 The April figure is about half a percent higher than the country’s 1.67 percent case fatality rate in March, according to data from Malacañang.

“We have an increase in deaths in April.   This is because of the increase of the number of cases we are having,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in an online press conference.

 As of April 27, the global COVID-19 case fatality rate was also at 2.1 percent, she said.

 While there was an average of 368 cases reported daily from January 31 to February 6, there were 4,748 cases reported per day on average between April 4 and 17, she also said.

Downward trend

Metro Manila’s COVID-19 cases remain on a downward trend, days after Philippine authorities eased some restrictions in the National Capital Region and surrounding provinces, called NCR Plus bubble,  while remaining under modified enhanced community quarantine, according to the OCTA Research Group on Tuesday.

 The effect of the MECQ “Flexi” might show “next week or next next week,” said  OCTA Research fellow Guido David.

 Metro Manila, which is home to a tenth of the country’s population, has a daily average of some 3,000 COVID-19 cases versus 5,500 during its peak, David said.

 Its reproduction rate, or the number of people infected by a virus patient, was down to 0.82, David said.

 “We can say it’s a downward trend but it’s still unstable because the decrease of virus cases in some LGUs is not that stable,” he said in an interview with ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo.

Hospitals decongested

Department of Health hospitals are already “decongested” as there was a  decrease in admitting patients in emergency rooms while COVID-19 cases slowly decline, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.

In Metro Manila, intensive care unit capacity in hospitals went up from 215 on April 18 to 400 ICU beds on May 2, he said.

 However, COVID-19 hospital bed utilization rate  in Cagayan Valley is still at high risk with 72 percent  while ICU utilization rate in Metro Manila is also still at high risk with 74 percent utilization rate.

Earlier, the health department reported that COVID-19 cases in the Philippines slowly declined as the national two-week case growth rate decreased to -15 percent from 11 percent three to four weeks ago.

Bed capacity

More than nine out of 10 beds at Philippine General Hospital dedicated to COVID-19 patients are now  occupied, its spokesman said Tuesday.

 This, even as the government said  the capital region’s virus infections declined.

 Some 234 out of 250 COVID-19 beds of the hospital are being used, according to Dr. Jonas del Rosario.

The number of virus cases in PGH has been “trending down,” but it again increased over the last 3 days, Del Rosario said.

The National Economic and Development Authority earlier said Metro Manila  needed to ease into general community quarantine  (GCQ) for the country to reach its target growth of 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent this year.

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