MANILA — The Philippines announced on Monday that its COVID-19 cases had exceeded one million, as the country sought to boost healthcare capacity to ease strains on hospitals and medical staff stretched by a second wave of infections.
The Philippines imposed a two-week lockdown of Manila and surrounding provinces late last month to try to stem a surge in cases blamed on more contagious COVID-19 variants.
But while daily infections have eased slightly they have still averaged more than 9,000, against 5,525 in March and 213 per day in April 2020, health ministry data showed.
In the capital region, an urban sprawl of 16 cities home to at least 13 million people, intensive care unit (ICU) capacity is above 70%, while 57% of isolation beds and 64% of ward beds for COVID-19 patients were occupied as of April 26.
In a bid to admit more patients, tents were turned into COVID-19 emergency rooms at the National Kidney Transplant Institute, a government hospital in Manila.
“All in all we waited for almost six hours It’s a long difficult wait,” COVID-19 patient Roel Galan told Reuters, speaking outside a makeshift emergency room.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said on Monday 289 additional ICU beds would be made available in the capital.
To free up beds for severe COVID-19 patients, the Philippine Red Cross said on Monday it has set up field hospital tents and converted unused classrooms and buildings into quarantine facilities to care for patients with moderate and mild symptoms.
Dr. John Wong, a member of the government’s coronavirus task force’s data analytics team, said authorities must ramp up vaccinations to contain the virus and allow the economy to reopen.
He said 350,000 people needed to be vaccinated a day so the government could meet its target of immunizing 70 million, or a third of the country’s population, this year.
Since the Philippines started its vaccination drive in March, 1.5 million people have received a first dose of vaccine, with close to 231,000 people getting two doses, officials said.
The Philippines recorded 70 new deaths from COVID-19 on Monday bringing total fatalities to 16,853. —Reporting by Adrian Protugal and Neil Jerome Morales Writing by Karen Lema Editing by Ed Davies