Hospitals all over Metro Manila were shocked at the end of last week as the average number of daily cases of Covid-19 skyrocketed from 2,000 to 3,000.

The 50 percent increase resulted in various public and private hospitals reaching full capacity, with the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) even sending home non-medical personnel early on March 5.

The sudden worsening of the coronavirus situation in the country was confirmed when 3,000 new patients were recorded by the Health department on March 6.

Independent research group OCTA last March 7 projected that the Philippines would have from 5,000 to 6,000 new cases per day by the end of this month, based on the present reproduction number.

OCTA predicted that Metro Manila would be the worst hit, at 3,000 cases daily by end-March.

Prior to last week’s dramatic surge, the country had been averaging between 1,500 to 2,000 new cases daily, seen as an indication that the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic was under control.

The research group said the new variants of Covid-19 were likely to blame for the rash of new cases as “the original strain does not spread this quickly.”

A recently retired doctor who remains a consultant at the PGH and the Makati Medical Center (MMC) told FilAm Star that initially, non-medical personnel at the Philippines’ primary public hospital were sent home in fears that they would be exposed to the virus.

“The situation is abnormally bad,” he said.

By late afternoon on Friday, however, the situation took a turn for the worse as even interns were sent home.

Two doctors working at PGH confirmed that a high number of medical and non-medical workers had been sent home.

Besides the MMC, other class A hospitals like St. Luke’s Medical Center had reportedly reached full capacity for Covid patients, although total capacity for all other patients had reached an average of 80 percent.

The last time the country hit the 3,000 daily infection rate was in October last year.

Although the first variant of Covid-19 was discovered in the UK, it is the South African variant that has appeared in the Philippines, with 58 cases recorded as of the start of this week.

Considered more infectious than the original, it is not clear how much of an impact the new variants will have on the efficacy of the vaccines, which began arriving in the Philippines last week and which are being used primarily for health workers, especially frontliners.

In Metro Manila, Pasay City has been identified as the epicenter of the latest cases of coronavirus, with scores of barangays being placed under strict lockdown. For last week, all the local government units comprising the metropolis recorded more cases compared to the previous week.

OCTA Research figures showed that new infections for the week of February 28 to March 6 were 42 percent higher than the previous week, and 130 percent higher than two weeks ago.

“The last time (Metro Manila) had seen this rate of increase was in July 2020,” said OCTA.

Meanwhile, ordinary residents of the National Capital Region will not be able to get vaccinated until sometime in the second or third quarter this year. The vaccines that have arrived so far or which are due to arrive in the coming weeks that have been allotted for Metro Manila will mostly be administered to healthcare workers.

Local government units have asked their residents to register to receive the free vaccines, with senior citizens being first in line.