It was like the middle of 2020 all over again, but worse. Mere weeks after the start of COVID-19 vaccination for medical workers across the country, new cases of the virus infecting more people started to skyrocket in Metro Manila, beating heart of the nation and epicenter of the pandemic in the Philippines. With hospitals running out of dedicated COVID wards, the national government encased Metro Manila and four neighboring provinces in the NCR Plus bubble, which eventually became an enhanced community quarantine lockdown (with work exceptions). It does not seem to be working, with new cases reaching record daily highs and several notable names catching – and dying – of COVID.

The Philippine Star reports that the sheer number of people contracting COVID-19 has been so overwhelming that government infrastructure for referring them to hospitals with available COVID isolation wards have been swamped. To state plainly, Metro Manila is running out of COVID hospital rooms and facilities to help patients with the virus. The Department of Health notes that as of Tuesday, March 30, NCR hospitals have reported 57% of their total ICU beds in use, same for 68% isolation beds, 59% ward beds and 57% ventilators. As a result, they have been forced to report full capacity for COVID cases.

But facts are little comfort to many Manileños who have recently rushed their COVID-infected family members to medical centers only to be turned down due to lack of space. This has led to tragic deaths for some patients stuck waiting outside emergency rooms. Some of the survivors have gone on to vent their frustrations at the government on social media. Even celebrities were not spared, from OPM legend Claire dela Fuente and former President and Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada. Both were admitted, but while Erap is currently fighting off COVID and pneumonia, Claire unfortunately succumbed.

Department of Health Undersecretary and treatment czar Leopoldo Vega notes that the central COVID referral center One Hospital Command is being battered by an average of 400 calls daily, from frantic relatives of new infected. With the established hospitals and treatment centers nearly full, one option had been to raise more field facilities for additional bed space. This is one option, while the problem remains enormous. As of March 30 the total COVID cases for the Philippines was at 741,181 people. 124,680 of these are active and 13,191 have died. Monday saw the current peak of daily infections at 10,016 new COVID cases, with Tuesday’s addition being 9,296 more patients.

Already the DOH and outside experts are calling for the NCR Plus bubble, effective only for Holy Week, to be extended further, with additional areas of the country to revert to higher community quarantine levels. Modified ECQ is in effect at Santiago City in Isabela and Quirino province for April. GCQ is up for the rest of Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Cagayan, and all of CAR, while the cities of Tacloban, Iligan and Davao City have their GCQ status renewed again.

Image courtesy of OneNews.PH