By Beting Laygo Dolor
MANILA – The warning signs this week are undeniable. New cases of COVID-19 spurred by its Delta variant are spreading like wildfire.
As such, the Philippines may be overrun by the new coronavirus variant much like its next door neighbor Indonesia, now one of the global epicenters of the pandemic.
COVID cases in Metro Manila jumped by 65 percent compared to last week, the Health department said Wednesday, Aug. 4. As of that date, the country recorded 7,342 new cases.
As of Tuesday, Aug.3, there were 6,879 new cases recorded by the Department of Health (DOH).
This is compared to the 8,167 new cases recorded on Monday, Aug. 2; the 8,735 cases reported on Sunday, Aug.1; and 8,147 cases on Saturday, July 31; and 8,562 cases on Friday, July 30.
It should be noted that the “low” number of new cases for Aug.3 was due to fewer tested samples in laboratories over the weekend. It is almost a certainty that the final number is substantially higher.
The July 30 cases showed a dramatic increase from the July 29 total of 5,735 and the days prior to that when the totals were mostly in the 5,000 to 6,000 range.
Also on Tuesday, this week, the DOH reclassified the National Capital Region as a “high risk” a little more than a month after saying it was a “low risk” area following the hike in average daily attack rate of the virus.
New cases are being recorded at a faster-than-expected clip. The 10,000 cases a day projected by OCTA Research to take place by September — recently seconded by the DOH which expects 11,000/day — is likely to be hit by next week if the current trajectory is maintained.
Health undersecretary Rosario Vergeire said this week that the government already assumes there is a community transmission of the Delta variant due to the exponential rise in COVID-19 cases.
Community transmission occurs when an infectious disease spreads within a group of people who have no known contact with a person infected or exposed to the disease.
The surge is again expected to put a tremendous strain on the public and private hospitals of the metropolis, similar to what happened last year when countless patients had to be turned away due to lack of rooms and beds.
Health undersecretary Leopoldo Vega told local media that the DOH was “not capable of handling if the surge will be three times to four times compared to last year.”
This is because “our resources are finite,” he said.
Vega said the Delta variant can infect up to eight people at one time.
To prevent the further spread of COVID-19 cases in the National Capital Region, the government will again impose the strictest lockdown known as enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) from Aug. 6 to 20.
During the two-week period, longer curfew hours will be enforced, from 8:00pm to 4:00am.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, co-chairman of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, said he was not sure if the ECQ would only last for two weeks. He said it will all depend on the number of COVID-19 cases plus the progress of the government’s vaccination drive.
Nograles reiterated the potential worst-case scenario of up to 30,000 new cases daily without the reimposition of the ECQ.
During the ECQ, the government plans to administer four million vaccines to residents of the metropolis.
The government will also release P1,000 (about $20) cash assistance for every adult during the lockdown period, up to a maximum of P4,000 ($80) per household.