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Philippines Cracks World Top 20 of COVID Cases, Data Shows Bigger Picture

Where are we nearly seven months into the quarantine?
by Joel Guinto
Oct 2, 2020
Photo/s: Jerome Ascaño

The Philippines has overtaken Pakistan to crack the Top 20 list of countries with the most number of COVID-19 cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University in the US. The battle against the pandemic continues as the first vaccine doses are unlikely until the middle of 2021. As the nation braces for yet another month of restrictions, does data show a winning or losing fight?

Wordwide, deaths topped the one million milestone, based on an Agence France-Presse tally. Cases are spiking again in Europe and the Middle East, sparking fears of a second wave. The U.S. is the world's hardest-hit with 200,000 fatalities.

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What are the numbers like at the start of October?

The Philippines tallied 314,079 cases, including 5,562 deaths as of Oct. 1, behind Italy, which is at 19th place with 317,409. The U.S. remains the world epicenter of the pandemic with 7,273,943, followed by India with 6,312,584.

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Johns Hopkins University

The total cases may be enough to count among the 20 highest in the world, but are far from the record high totals on a per month, week, and day basis, also according to Johns Hopkins, which has an extensive COVID-19 dashboard.

The Philippines reported its highest single-day cases on Aug. 10, at 6,725, that's more than double the 2,500 to 3,000 cases per day in recent days.

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Johns Hopkins University
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Johns Hopkins University

Infections are slowing in the Philippines

There are still new cases reported everyday, but the numbers have begun to go down, based on data from Johns Hopkins. There are still new infections, but the single-day totals are not as high as in recent months. 

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The conclusion is based on the moving average of new cases in the last seven days. Johns Hopkins' tracker lists the Philippines as among the 20 most affected countries in the world. But of the 20, the country is one of just seven that have succeeded in bringing cases down as of Sept. 29.

At 4 p.m. on Oct. 1, the Philippines had a total of 314,079 cases. It might seem big, but of the total, 17.3% or 54,294 are active meaning they remain in isolation or under treatment. Roughly eight in every 10 cases, or 80.9% have recovered and 1.8% or 5,448 have died.

Of the total active cases, 86.6% are mild, 9% show no symptoms (asymptomatic), 1.4% are severe and 3.1% are critical.

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If cases are slowing, why extend the GCQ?

Cases are spiking in Southern Luzon, which could affect Metro Manila, officials said on Monday when the decision to keep the capital under the second lowest quarantine was announced.

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During the Sept. 15 to 29 period, Southern Luzon (Region IV-A) was second only to Metro Manila in terms of newly reported cases, with 296. Central Luzon (Region III) had 239 while Western Visayas (Region VI) had 223.

"Clustering of cases" also remains, said Health Usec. Rosario Vergeire. "We need to monitor these areas," she told ANC.

What does it take to graduate to MGCQ?

Targets must be met. For one, there should be more available resources compared to the number of critical COVID-19 patients. This is called criticial care capacity.

Critical care capacity should be at 60% at most to qualify as "medium risk." It is currently at 65%, said Health Usec. Bong Vega, the country's treatment czar. "If you are to move towards MGCQ, dapat mas below ka ‘no (it needs to be lower)," he said.

Before new infections slowed, Vergeire said critical care capacity was at 80%, considered the "danger zone."

Also being monitored is the case doubling time or the amount of time it takes for infections to double, Vega said. This is an indicator of how fast the disease is spreading.

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There should be at least 30% bed allocation for COVID-19 patients in government hospitals and 20% in private hospitals, Vergeire said.

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What will this GCQ be like?

The general community quarantine will last until Oct. 31 in Metro Manila, Batangas province and the cities of Tacloban, Iloilo, Bacolod and Iligan. This means keep on wearing face masks and face shields when out in public and observe physical distancing.

Metro Manila mayors recommended continued GCQ, but with provisions to increase the operating capacity of businesses and shorten curfews, said San Juan Mayor Francis Zamora. There have been no announcements as of early morning of Sept. 30.

Restrictions get adjusted in real time, depending on the status of cases. The following businesses are allowed only under MGCQ and at 50% capacity: full body massage, tattoo and body piercing and live events and conventions.

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The following businesses, allowed to operate up to 30% in GCQ areas, can increase capacity to 50%: gyms, review centers, internet cafes, drive in cinemas and pet grooming.

Malls can operate at 100% capacity, subject to trade department rules, along with car repair, car sales, job recruitment, fashion and interior design. Restaurant dine-in, barbershops and salons can increase capacity to 75% from 50%.

In tourism, some local governments impose fewer requirements on visitors from areas with MGCQ, compared to GCQ. It can also pave the way for the resumption of inter-province land travel.

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