While the number of Covid-19 cases is going down, an infectious disease expert

appealed to the public not to be complacent as use of intensive care units (ICU) in hospitals remains at 75 percent and herd immunity has yet to be achieved

Dr. Rontgene Solange said that in San Lazaro Hospital, their occupancy rate in COVID-19 ward beds decreased by 40 percent while ICU use is also going down. 

Even as new COVID-19 cases nationwide are decreasing, he considered as “not a good number” fresh infections from 7,000 to 8,000.

He said the vaccination percentage has not yet reached 40 percent. 

“We are still far off the herd immunity, which is our target. So there is still  a big chance that community quarantines will be tightened,” added Solange.

Around 23.8 million Filipinos are fully vaccinated against the new coronavirus disease. This represents 31.09 percent of the target population.

Due to these conditions, he urged the public to be more cautious as the government slowly re-opens the economy after Metro Manila was placed under Alert Level 3 from October 16-31.

A group of doctors on October 10 raised fears that the government might not be able to immediately respond if there’s a slight increase in Covid-19 cases after the downgrade of the National Capital Region (NCR) to COVID-19 Alert Level 3 effective October 16.

The NCR on Saturday eased to Alert Level 3, which allows limited in-person classes, and the re-opening of more businesses such as amusement parks and cinemas, among others.

“We are worried that, based on previous experience, every time we ease restrictions, the people forget observance of health protocols,” said Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) President Dr. Maricar Limpkin. 

Limpin  related that hospitals remain short-staffed due to virus infections among health workers.

She also cited an “expected exodus of nurses” following intensified recruitment to work in the UK and the US.

“I hope the PRC examination for new doctors pushes through. Our fear really is there won’t be new doctors by January,” she said 

She said although ICUs and emergency wards are still full, patients can be admitted within the day. But as businesses open, she recommended a physical distancing of two2 meters and told the public, “If we don’t have anything important to do, we should remain home. Let’s protect ourselves and our loved ones,” she insisted.

The adviser to the National Task Force Covid-19 also warned that the NCR  could experience a “rebound” of COVID-19 cases due to the shift from Alert Level 4 to level 3.

Dr. Anthony Leachon asserted NCR is not yet ready to ease quarantine restrictions and increase business capacity due to high positivity rate.

While the positivity rate in the capital region has declined from 29 percent to 14percent, Leachon said it is still far from the below the five percent set by the World Health Organization.

“We need to (have) the positivity rate below five percent and increase vaccination rate to at least 70 percent,” said Leachon.

The former president of the Philippine College of Physicians also said the government needs to identify which locality has a high positivity rate, so more tests can be conducted in this area.

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority reported that NCR has vaccinated 78 percentof its eligible population but it is far from the 90 percent needed to achieve herd immunity.