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COVID-19 front lines worse than before, say doctors

Contrary to the optimism of some officials as regards COVID-19 in the country, doctors told GMA News that all's not well in the front lines against the coronavirus.

According to Raffy Tima’s report on “24 Oras,” several hospitals have reported COVID-19 infections among their staff.

“‘Yung mga sinasabi sa news na numbers, technically ‘yung iba do’n totoo pero you can’t handpick the data and make it appear na okay tayo,” Dr. John Besa of the Philippine General Hospital said.

“I am telling everyone na in the front lines, hindi talaga okay. Sobrang mas malala tayo kumpara noong una,” he added.

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Monica Reyes-Montecillo said medical workers were already exhausted.

“We are seeing more severe cases. The reality is lahat ng tao sa front lines pagod na,” she said.

The healthcare workers appealed for better contact tracing efforts and more isolation facilities to stem the spread of COVID-19.

'Warning zone'

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire on Tuesday said the Philippines’ healthcare system was close to being overwhelmed by the rising number of COVID-19 cases.

She said the national COVID-19 bed occupancy rate had breached the “warning zone.”

Vergeire said 52.3% or 8,577 of the 16,388 beds dedicated for COVID-19 patients across the country were occupied as of July 26.

The DOH earlier explained that an area is in the “safe zone” if 0% to 30% of COVID-19-dedicated facilities are in use, while it is in the “warning zone” at 30% to 70% utilization and in the “danger zone” at 70% to 100% utilization.

“Nationally, malapit na po na ma-overwhelm ang health system natin… kaya naman nakikiusap po kami sa inyo na sumunod po tayo sa minimum health standards,” Vergeire said in a briefing.

'No second wave'

Vergeire said over the weekend that a second wave of COVID-19 spread had yet to hit the country.

Vergeire made the declaration after COVID-19 cases breached 80,000 on July 26, Sunday, and after four days straight of more than 2,000 reported cases daily.

“As to the second wave, nag-aaral tayo, pero wala pa tayong naide-declare na ganito, hindi pa rin natin nakikita na meron tayong ganyan,” Vergeire said.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. on Tuesday said the case doubling time has improved to 8.9 days. 

This was the reason why the National Capital Region reverting to a modified enhanced community quarantine was "not a foregone conclusion."

The spokesman earlier said Metro Manila could go back to MECQ if the COVID-19 cases hit 85,000 as experts from the University of the Philippines had predicted.

“Tingnan po natin kung ano ang magiging desisyon, pero hindi po forgone conclusion na babalik tayo sa MECQ, dahil ang case doubling rate naman po ay hindi lumala, bumuti lang ng bahagya,” he said at a televised briefing.

'Alarming situation'

Meanwhile, the Philippine Orthopedic Center said it has logged 114 confirmed cases, 80 of which active but mild or asymptomatic.

The hospital management believes that the infected staff got the virus from outside the facility.

“Ito po ay nakakaalarma na at sana… ay mabigyan ng panahon na maaaring ang ospital ay mai-lockdown muna ng ilang araw at magkaroon ng disinfection,” former POC chaplain Fr. Arnold Abelardo said.

In Zamboanga, the rising number of frontline workers testing positive for COVID-19 has also become a cause for concern.

“We have not yet flattened the curve and we are expecting for the next two weeks, if we’re not going to cooperate, our cases would continue to rise,” health officer Dr. Dulce Miravite said.

According to the Department of Health, 4,507 health workers have contracted COVID-19 as of July 26.

Of this number, 3,458 have recovered and 36 have died. -Julia Mari Ornedo/NB, GMA News