Dr. Jan Claire Dorado, a doctor assigned to the Covid-19 Emergency Room of East Avenue Medical Center in Quezon City tends to a patient connected to a ventilator. The Philippines recorded Southeast Asia’s biggest jump in Covid deaths, prompting authorities to warn of more fatalities ahead. (Photo courtesy of Reuters)
By Tracy Cabrera
MANILA —The Philippines reported Southeast Asia’s biggest daily jump in Covid-19 deaths on Monday, January 18, prompting government authorities to issue a warning of possibly more fatalities in the coming weeks even as local officials scrambled to verify thousands of suspected cases and pressure grows on hospitals after the easing of lockdowns during the holidays and early this month because of religious festivities connected to the country’s adopted patron—the Child Jesus or Santo Niño.
According to the government and several large hospitals in the National Capital Region (NCR), critical care capacity had been reached thus adding to fears of being deluged by the increasing number of patients afflicted by the novel coronavirus or nCoV and even other ailments.
The increase in Covid deaths is a growing trend in other countries as well as the United Kingdom, where a new variant of Covid-19 has recently been discovered, reporting a new daily high of fatalities at 1,610–the biggest figure reported in a single day since the pandemic began. This means that the UK’s total number of deaths by that measure is now above 90,000.
The health department has reported 162 new deaths that were confirmed on Sunday, January 17, plus another 65 the following day, with 2,960 additional infections. The Philippines over the past week has reported higher daily infections than Indonesia, which has Southeast Asia’s highest number of deaths and cases.
Philippine Covid-19 infections have more than tripled to 57,006 since June 1 last year when restrictions started to ease to allow some public transport, restaurants, and malls to reopen in a bid to restart an economy decimated by some of the world’s strictest and longest quarantine protocols on movement and commerce.
Although the Philippines has ramped up testing lately, the 926,252 recorded represents less than one percent of the 107 million population.
Health undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said there were nearly 12,000 suspected positive cases yet to be verified and the death toll of 1,599 would almost certainly rise.
“As part of ongoing data harmonization, we cannot avoid seeing cases not yet included in our official death count,” Vergeire said in a news conference.
She added that efforts to speed up data collection would mean greater numbers being reported in the coming days.
Presidential spokesman Atty. Harry Roque described the outbreak as an “intensifying challenge” and said hospital occupancy in Manila had jumped to 70 from 48 percent a week ago due to a spike in cases.
Two of Manila’s biggest private hospitals declared on Monday they were at full capacity.
“Right now, the critical bed capacity especially for the intensive care units are already in the danger zone,” Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega disclosed to the media.
Manila remains the center of the outbreak but Cebu city is becoming a new hotspot with a 10th of the total number of infections. It has since June 16 been under the highest level of restriction.
A resurgence in infections was to be expected with lockdown easing, former health minister Esperanza Cabral, told Reuters, but “the degree of increase” will depend on people’s compliance with social distancing rules. (AI/MTVN)