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60% HUR not enough for Alert Level 4 — Palace



Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles (Malacañang photo)

Placing the National Capital Region (NCR) in Alert Level 4 is not yet advisable as the hospital utilization rate (HUR), one of the parameters being monitored by the government, has not breached 71 percent, hovering at only 60 percent, according to acting presidential spokesperson, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Alexei Nograles.

In a radio interview Saturday, Nograles admitted that even though the two-week growth rate and the daily average attack rates are already high, the third metric that the government is monitoring, which is the total bed utilization is not yet in critical status.

“For the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) to declare Alert Level 4, the bed utilization rate should reach 71 percent and up. Currently, our total bed utilization as of 13 January was at 60.03 percent for NCR, while the ICU (intensive care unit) utilization rate was at 55 percent. We are active in monitoring these metrics,” he explained.

Further, he said that although the hospital bed utilization is at the 60 percent level, they are also considering the classification of the patients using the hospital beds, if the symptoms are critical or mild.

“We want to emphasize that these hospital beds should be used or reserved for severe and critical, elderly and to those with comorbidities or what we call the vulnerable population. Meaning, if the cases are just mild and asymptomatic, they should not be at the hospital but in-home isolation or at the temporary treatment monitoring facilities or isolation facilities, so that all our hospital beds will be reserved for those patients who are severe and critical,” Nograles added.

IATF assessment
He said right now the IATF is doing an assessment in all hospitals in the NCR to step down patients to available isolation facilities, “so that the hospital bed utilization rate will not breach the 71 percent benchmark.”

Recently, Prof. Jomar Rabajante of the University of the Philippines (UP) Pandemic Response Team said Covid cases may peak at 40,000 earliest at 15 January, and that the latest would be the third week of February due, especially in the presence of Omicron variant, if massive interventions will not be made.

Nograles maintained that the government will still wait to reach 71 percent of the utilization rate to declare Alert Level 4, even though cases will reach the 40,000 peaks.

“Based on our numbers, NCR has already reached 100 percent in terms of full vaccination. Although the numbers include those working in Metro Manila, that’s why we still see that there are certain populations in the NCR that are not yet fully vaccinated. So those who contracted the virus are not in critical condition, meaning, the vaccines really work. That’s the reason why although cases are high, we cannot see the changes in the hospital utilization rate. That’s the very reason why we shifted to Alert Level 3, and good thing, our citizens are already self-isolating whenever they feel the symptoms or alternative working arrangements such as telecommuting. And that will really help to bring down the number of cases,” he further reiterated.

Nograles stated that acquiring the Covid-19 vaccine remains the foremost answer to the surge of cases.

“Right now, we are pushing for LGU (local government unit) to do house-to-house campaign and vaccination, especially to those senior citizens and with comorbidities. We believe that the LGU can reach them out,” he said.

On Saturday, the Department of Health has logged 39,004 new Covid-19 cases, the highest single-day tally since the onset of the pandemic, and as the DoH has confirmed that there is already a community transmission of the Omicron variant in Metro Manila.

The country’s total reported cases reached 3,168,379,

There were also 23,613 people who recovered from Covid-19, raising the total to 2,834,708, while fatalities surged by 43 to 52,858.

On No Vax, No Ride bashers
Meanwhile, Nograles also defended the new scheme of the Department of Transportation (DoTr) of the “No Vax, No Ride” policy that is set to be implemented on Monday, 17 January.

“The primary reason of President Rodrigo Duterte is to really protect the unvaccinated and those working in the transport sector. Because 85 percent of patients in the intensive care units and hospitals are really unvaccinated. The data is clear that if you are unvaccinated, you will get the severe Covid 19,” he said.

The DoTr said all passengers of road, maritime, railways and air transportation will be subjected to show their vaccination cards before riding the public transport, as only fully vaccinated passengers will be allowed to use the country’s transportation sector.