By Corina Oliquino

MANILA — Sen. Joel Villanueva quizzed Health Sec. Francisco Duque III on why in seven out of 10 active critical cases, 73 percent failed to get any treatment at medical facilities last August 18 at the Senate Committee of the Whole’s probe into PhilHealth.

The data, released on August 17 by the DoH, also showed nearly half of the persons who died from COVID-19 or 1,286 of 2,861 deaths attributed to the coronavirus were never admitted to hospitals.

“Mas masakit po pag tiningnan natin itong data na ito. Halos kalahati ng mga namatay, 48 percent … ang hindi man lang na-admit sa ospital. Adequate po ba talaga ang ating mga ospital?” Villanueva asked Duque,

Duque responded that the government is still expanding the country’s healthcare systems capacity including the establishment of a 250-bed intermediate facility in Quezon City for mild and asymptomatic patients.

In a statement released by the Senate, Villanueva, who is the co-chair of the inter-agency task force managing the government’s COVID-19 response, also pointed out another set of data where the DoH listed 509 of the 694 active critical cases and 113 of the 489 active severe cases as not being admitted to hospitals.

“I wanted to find out… what explains the fact that among active cases, there are more patients with severe and critical conditions who are not admitted than admitted? Tatlo lang yung possibility. Una: Maaaring walang ospital. Pangalawa: full yung ospital. Pangatlo, natatakot magbayad at ‘di nila alam na ang PhilHealth ay makakatulong sa kanila,”Villanueva asked.

Duque agreed  it is saddening how some severe and critical patients were not  admitted to any hospital, adding, “Pwede siguro makapagbigay kami ng contact number naming para ito po ay ma-follow up.”

Pinoys follow rules but “poverty in space” led to COVID-19 outbreaks

In another report by ABS-CBN News, Sen. Aimee Marcos said Filipinos are not stubborn and blamed “poverty in space” in the continuous spread of COVID-19.

Marcos noted that informal settlers (or squatters) in Metro Manila and Cebu only have an average two square meters of residential space, where social distancing and other minimum health protocols are near to impossible.

“The problem is the great inequity in space for those who are much wealthier and those who are poorer.  Part of poverty and it’s a multi-faceted, multi-dimensional problem — is (scarcity in) space. Hindi lang cash ang kulang, pati lugar,” she said, noting that government should offer opening up auditoriums, stadiums and hotels for public use.

On June 22, Duterte blamed Cebuanos for the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Cebu City, now considered as the new coronavirus hotspot in the country.

“If you get sick, sorry. There’s nothing we can do. That’s what Cebuanos do. Why are there more cases? Because you were too confident and too complacent about it. It’s like you ignored it so it happened,” he said, and added that he was going to send Environment Sec. Roy Cimatu to oversee the COVID-19 response in Cebu province.

PH’s huge population a big challenge in curbing the spread of COVID-19

In another report by The Philippine Star, international author Tomas Pueyo in an interview with Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Sec. Martin Andanar at Radyo Pilipinas last week said the country’s high-density population is one of the main challenges facing the government in  containing COVID-19.

“That is going to be the biggest challenge. You have millions of people working very close to each other. Many of them cannot just stay home because they are going to starve and how do you handle that situation?” Pueyo said, noting the Hammer and Dance strategy in curbing the spread of COVID-19 aims to “control the drastic spread of the infection by confinement or enhanced community quarantine in the Philippine context.”

“The hammer is the very heavy set of measures to stop the economy so that the number of cases that are growing exponentially starts to slow down. Hopefully it goes completely down…reduces the deaths and, more importantly, gives the country time to figure out the second piece, which is the dance,” Pueyo noted.

“In the dance, we replace all these heavy measures — lockdowns and closure of schools and colleges and businesses — and replace them with a set of intelligent measures that can achieve the same goals. But without the same cost,” he added, noting the government should “find everybody who has the virus, find all the contacts and isolate them either at home or somewhere else” if it wants to eliminate COVID-19.

As of August 24, the DoH reported 4,686 new COVID-19 cases to bring the total to 194,252, 13 more deaths and 729 recoveries.