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Winning or Losing? What the Philippines' COVID-19 Numbers Say

The country is pushing 7 months under quarantine and counting.
by Joel Guinto
Sep 29, 2020
Photo/s: Jerome Ascano

Three hundred thousand cases. Half a year under quarantine. Among the top 20 countries in the world with the highest number of infections. With the first vaccine doses unlikely until the middle of 2021, the Philippines' battle against COVID-19 continues. 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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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 University in the U.S. There are still new infections, but the single-day totals are not as high as in recent months. 

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Johns Hopkins University

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.

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At 4 p.m. Tuesday, the Philippines had a total of 309,303 cases. It might seem big, but of the total, 16.5% or 50,925 are active meaning they remain in isolation or under treatment. Roughly eight in every 10 cases, or 81.8% have recovered and 1.8% or 5,448 have died.

Of the total active cases, 86.5% are mild, 8.8% show no symptoms (asymptomatic), 1.4% are severe and 3.3% 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 rthe capital under the second lowest quarantine was announced.

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.

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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.

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.

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%.

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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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