OCTA Research fellow Fr. Nicanor Austriaco said that hospitals in Metro Manila may reach their full capacity by the middle of August if the government does not implement stricter quarantine measures amid the detection of the Delta variant of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Based on the projections from Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam, healthcare utilization in Metro Manila alone will likely be 100 percent full between Aug. 15 and Aug. 19, Austriaco said in a virtual press briefing on Wednesday, July 28.
“Our projections based on the behavior of the Delta variant in our ASEAN neighbors suggest that the surge will begin to impact our health care system in the NCR (National Capital Region) by the middle of August. Our hospitals will become overwhelmed by the end of August if nothing is done,” Austriaco said.
He said that Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam are “very similar biologically, economically, sociologically to the Philippines” and that all three countries are undergoing Delta-driven surges at present.
“Regardless of the surge in Vietnam, Thailand, or Malaysia, the expectation is that our hospital utilization will reach about 70 percent around the 11th or 12th of August. The DOH has set this as critical,” Austriaco said.
“A week later, because of the explosive nature of the surge, we would reach the maximum of our health care capacity,” he added.
Moreover, Austriaco said that if the Delta surge in Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam occurred in Metro Manila now, he projected that the 1,000 daily average cases at present will continue to rise in the coming weeks.
“On average, if the Delta surge in the NCR is similar to the one that we are seeing in Thailand, by the middle of August, we will have 8,000 or so daily cases. If it is something similar to Vietnam, we will see 6,000 (cases per day). So the range is between 6,000 and 8,000 (cases),” he explained.
“And by the end of next month, the range will be between 9,000 and 13,000 (cases). Again, depending upon whether or not the Delta surge will look like any of the Delta surges that we are seeing in our three ASEAN neighbors,” he added.
Austriaco said that a “circuit-breaker” and “hard” lockdown being recommended by OCTA will prevent a Delta surge from happening, because once it begins, “it accelerates in an explosive fashion.”
“We’ve seen this in Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Again, these are very similar societies so we expect that the Delta surge, the biology, will remain approximately the same,” he pointed out.
“I would like also to point out that no country in ASEAN has been able to halt and reverse the Delta surge without a hard lockdown in major cities. The longer we wait to act, the harder it will be to reverse the surge,” he added.
For his part, OCTA Research fellow and professor Ranjit Rye said that the current general community quarantine with heightened restrictions will not be enough to reverse the alarming trends.
“In this light, we urge the national government not to wait for the numbers to explode or for our hospitals to fill up before it decides. We must learn from the lesson of the last surge of March, where a delay in the response led to the deadly surge that resulted in great loss to life and a long and costly lockdown,” he said.
“Let us also learn from the lessons of other countries hit by Delta, where governments lost effective control of the epidemic because institutions in charge of managing the pandemic acted too little and too late,” he added.