As the month of March draws to a close, the COVID-19 situation here in the Philippines seems to have taken a grim turn. Counts of new cases of infection appear to have skyrocketed to levels not seen since the middle of last year. In fact, some of the figures are worse than 2020. The irony is that vaccines have already begun to be distributed and used on the country’s medical front-liners, but the pace has been too slow to prevent more personnel from catching COVID. Analysts are predicting no turnaround in the situation, and lawmakers are calling for the Inter-Agency Task Force to be dissolved.

Such is the current state of events in the country regarding the response to COVID-19, as reported by the Philippine Star. To wit, as of Tuesday March 23 there have been 5,867 new cases of infection. The total of COVID cases since the pandemic began in March of 2020 is now at 677,653 as a result. Added to the number of active cases (not recovered yet), the number 86,200 (12% of total) is now the highest the active case figure has gotten in the pandemic’s history. About 620 are newly-recovered, joining the 578,461 that already have; sadly, 20 deaths are added to the 12,992 total.

In light of these worrying statistics, some changes have been implemented in the “NCR Plus” GCQ bubble covering Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal. After one day of allowing their operations at limited capacity, all gyms, spas and health-service businesses like barbers are now mandated closed until the end of the bubble on Easter Sunday. This takes the air out of complaints by church officials that those businesses were left open while religious gatherings are prohibited. Nevertheless, the Archdiocese of Manila has directed its churches to keep accepting worshippers, at 10% venue capacity and strict adherence to COVID protocols.

On the government front, some members of the Senate are taking the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) to task for a perceived failure in keeping the pandemic’s damaging effects to the country, people and economy in check. Senators Imee Marcos and Tito Sotto have called for the IATF to be abolished, while Sen. Risa Hontiveros believes the task force needs only an overhaul by adding business leaders and public health experts to their ranks. Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque has dismissed calls for dissolving the IATF, citing political motivations in said sentiments.

The OCTA Research Group meanwhile is not optimistic with trends in NCR Plus, stating that the COVID reproduction rate there of 2.1 is unlikely to go down in the next two weeks that the bubble is in place. They reasoned that when cases ballooned in August 2020 it took 28 days for the reproduction rate to return to controllable levels.

Image: Philippine News Agency