DOH: Without ECQ, active COVID-19 cases may spike fourfold to 430,000

Bonz Magsambol
DOH: Without ECQ, active COVID-19 cases may spike fourfold to 430,000

CHECKPOINT. A cop checks the identification papers of a man passing through a checkpoint at the border of Muntinlupa City and San Pedro City, Laguna.


Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire says the lockdown would provide time to address 'operational issues in relation to case detection, contact tracing, isolation, and quarantine'

The Department of Health (DOH) on Monday, March 29, projected that the enforcement of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the “NCR Plus” bubble would prevent the Philippines’ active COVID-19 cases from hitting 430,000 by the end of April.

That would be a fourfold increase from the 105,568 active cases as of Sunday, March 28.

In a press briefing on Monday morning, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said their data monitoring showed that there is a “continuing and swift rise of cases” in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna, and Cavite, collectively dubbed “NCR Plus.”

Citing analysis conducted through their disease surveillance tool, Vergeire said putting these areas under the strictest quarantine would slow down the surge in COVID-19 infections.

“They said that if we don’t implement immediate and harder measures, we would see 430,000 active cases by the end of April nationally, 350,000 cases in NCR alone by the end of April,” she added in a mix of English and Filipino.

“NCR Plus” is under ECQ from Monday until Easter Sunday, April 4, limiting movement of people in the area only for essential needs.

“We did ECQ because this would provide time for us to address this non-compliance [with] the health protocols and operational issues in relation to case detection, contact tracing, isolation, and quarantine,” Vergeire said.

Increasing healthcare utilization

Aside from the high growth rate of cases in “NCR Plus,” Vergeire also noted the increasing intensive care unit (ICU) utilization, which is now at 63% for Metro Manila and 58% for Calabarzon.

“What would be more worrisome is our ICU utilization rate, wherein if you look at the different areas affected, you would find utilization ranging from 70% to 100% for their ICU beds,” she said.

When an ICU is at full capacity, patients who need intensive care may end up waiting elsewhere such as at the emergency room. Hospitals may also need to scale back procedures or surgeries for non-coronavirus patients to free up more resources.

For the 3rd straight day, the Philippines on Sunday logged over 9,000 COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 721,892.

In March alone so far, at least 145,540 new cases have been reported, already making it the month with the highest number of new cases since the coronavirus pandemic started. –

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.