MANILA, Aug 3 (Mabuhay) — The country is still in the thick of the battle against COVID-19 as it prepares its health care facilities and its health workers for a possible increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire said on Monday.

“Sa tanong kung nananalo ba tayo, nagma-manage po tayo, pine-prepare po natin ang ating health care system para mas maka-accommodate po tayo ng mas maraming pasyente so we can appropriately address the situation,” Vergeire said during the Palace briefing.

The Philippines has recorded 103,185 COVID-19 cases as of Sunday. Of this number, 65,557 have recovered while 2,059 died.

National Task Force Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez also would not say that the Philippines is winning its COVID-19 fight at this point.

“We are in a critical phase of the management of the crisis,” Galvez said.

It was at the end of June when presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, Jr. said that the Philippines won its fight against COVID-19 since the UP researchers’ prediction of the country registering 40,000 COVID-19 cases that month did not happen.

At that time, the country registered around 36,000 COVID-19 cases.

The UP researchers again predicted that 80,000 COVID-19 cases will be recorded by end of July, a prediction that was breached even before July ended.

On Sunday night, August 2, President Rodrigo Duterte has already placed Metro Manila and other highly urbanized areas under stricter modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ)—a protocol that bans mass transport and non-essential work—from August 4 to 18 as the number of COVID-19 cases breached 103,000.

Vergeire said that this MECQ period will enable the government to improve contact tracing efforts and deploy substitute teams from the regions to enable  fatigued health care workers to rest from time to time.

Meanwhile, Vergeire said health workers from other regions in the country will be deployed in Metro Manila to help the fatigued health care personnel amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Kailangan natin gumawa ng substitution team para makapagpahinga ang mga kapatid natin na health workers sa NCR. Kausap po namin ang aming regional offices, at may darating na health workers [from other regions] dito sa NCR para tumulong,” Vergeire said.

“Mag-aanunsiyo rin po kami ng programa para sa private sector health workers po natin,” she added.

National Capital Region and the provinces of Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite, and Rizal will be under the MECQ —a protocol that bans mass transport and non-essential work—for 15 days.

This was after over 1,000 medical frontliners asked for Metro Manila to return to ECQ for two weeks to give them time to rest and “recalibrate strategies” as COVID-19 cases breach 103,000.

Vergeire said the Health department will also meet with groups of health workers within the day for the fine print of deployment of health personnel amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega, for his part, said that public hospitals have already been tasked to increase their COVID-19 bed capacity by 30% to 40% in case there will be further surge in cases.

Likewise, Vega said that COVID-19 facilities in East Avenue Medical Center, Quirino Memorial Medical Center, Quezon Institute, and Lung Center of the Philippines are expected to be available by the third week of August.

“Ito ang mga hakbang namin para ma-strengthen ang capacity this MECQ. It’s an opportunity and window to be able to be prepared for any eventuality,” Vega said in the same briefing.

Given the situation, Vergeire urged the public to be part of the solution by observing minimum health standards such as social distancing, washing of hands, and wearing of face masks.

“Let us adopt and partner with our barangays, sila dapat ang ating maging ground zero sa ginagawa natin,” Vergeire said.

“All hands on deck po. Nandito ang gobyerno para tulungan ang ating mga local officials,” Vergeire added. (MNS)

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