COVID-19

COVID-19 Watch: Philippines nears grim 2 million cases

Sofia Tomacruz
COVID-19 Watch: Philippines nears grim 2 million cases

PROTEST. Healthcare workers from the UST hospital rally along España Boulevard in Manila on August 30, as they demand the immediate release of their Special Risk Allowance and other benefits under Bayanihan to Recover as One Act and the resignation of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

Rappler

This week of August 30, 2021, we are also looking into the unprecedented levels of hospital admissions since April, the unreleased benefits for health workers, and scientists' explanation of the decline of vaccine effectiveness

The Philippines continues to see a rise in COVID-19 infections as Metro Manila and several provinces enter the third of a modified enhanced community quarantine.

Here’s what we’re watching this week of August 30, 2021:

Reported daily new cases in the Philippines are at their highest levels since the pandemic started – and continue to climb after weeks of several record-breaking tallies.

  • The latest daily new cases figure to eclipse all others yet: 22,366 newly reported cases on August 30, 2021. The Philippines will likely breach 2 million cases this week, but the Duterte administration doesn’t seem to be on track to tighten quarantine restrictions yet. 
  • Infections don’t look like they’ll wane anytime soon, with the Department of Health (DOH) reporting a positivity rate of 27.5% – way above the 5% threshold recommended by the World Health Organization. That means nearly 3 in 10 people tested for COVID-19 are positive. 
  • Plus, the highly contagious Delta variant is now the dominant COVID-19 variant in the Philippines, said WHO Representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe.
Unprecedented levels of hospital admissions since April

Hospital admissions in Metro Manila have reached levels not seen since April, when hundreds were left waiting or unable to get a hospital bed after a surge in cases overwhelmed health facilities in the region and neighboring provinces.

  • Many hospitals have again increased bed allocations, forcing other departments catering to non-COVID cases to close so that resources (most especially manpower) can be diverted to treating COVID-19 patients. 
  • Unlike the surge in April 2021 that was mainly centered in Metro Manila, health systems across the country are stretched thin as the ongoing increase in cases involved the whole of Luzon and select areas in the Visayas and Mindanao, too.
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Health workers still awaiting benefits from government

Thousands of health workers are still waiting to receive their share of the government’s promised COVID-19 benefits, after over a year of serving in some of the riskiest places to be in during the pandemic.

  • Healthcare workers, whom citizens have hailed as “heroes,” staged various protests on National Heroe’s Day on August 30 to demand better treatment from the government. Groups gave the government until August 31 to give what was due them. 
  • Various hospitals have been hit by resignations, aggravating a shortage of manpower during the crisis and exposing once more the plight of health workers in the Philippines.
WAITING FOR BENEFITS. Healthcare workers of the National Kidney and Transplant Institute hold a protest on August 30, 2021, National Heroes Day, calling for the resignation of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III. They also demand the release of the remaining part of their Special Risk Allowance (SRA).
Angie de Silva/Rappler
Scientists look into decline of vaccine effectiveness

In vaccine related news, scientists around the world are studying what exactly is driving the decline in effectiveness of vaccines in preventing infection.

  • One recent study from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that mRNA vaccines became less effective at preventing infection as the Delta variant became the dominant form of the virus. 
    • Ashley Fowlkes the author of the study and an epidemiologist at the CDC told the New York Times: “What we were trying to figure out is: Is this Delta, or is this waning effectiveness?…. Our conclusion is that we can’t really tell.” Read more here.
  • STAT News spoke to several experts who were also grappling with similar questions. In the meantime, vaccines still offer “impressive” protection against severe COVID-19. 

In case you missed it: The World Health Organization painted two scenarios for the pandemic in the future: learning to “live with the virus,” or failing to do so and seeing the rise of more dangerous variants that can thwart progress made so far. 

More on that in this story:

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– Rappler.com

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.