Philippines braces for post-holiday COVID-19 surge

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 4) — The country is getting ready for a possible spike in new COVID-19 cases after the Christmas holiday festivities.

Health spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said Friday they have met with scientists and mathematicians to get a projection of the number of new coronavirus cases the country may see in January. The DOH has also been holding several meetings with regional health offices and groups of medical experts to improve the capacity of hospitals and set up contingency plans in the event of a spike in cases.

"We are trying to prepare our hospitals. We are trying to prepare our TTMFs (Temporary Treatment and Monitoring Facilities). We want to have this engagement with the local governments already para lahat tayo handa (So we're prepared)," Vergeire said in a media briefing.

Meanwhile, Dr. Jaime Almora, president of the Philippine Hospitals Association (PHA), said private hospitals are not prepared when it comes to manpower, particularly on the number of nurses.

“We have our isolation rooms, but we have a problem on manpower," he told CNN Philippines’ News. PH. "The manpower problem got worse, especially in the private sector. The nurses in the private sector transferred to the government sector. So as far as the private hospitals are concerned, their preparedness decreased because of the manpower problem.”

The Department of Health said the responsibility does not rest solely on the government, reiterating its reminder to the public to limit gatherings to household members, avoid social events, and defer travel plans.

The PHA also echoed the call of the DOH, saying that hospitals may not be able to provide the best medical service when a surge happens.

“We would like to discourage close family gatherings this Christmas, because we may not be able to respond to [them] as fully as they wished,” said Almora. “And if there is surge beyond the capacity of the hospitals, then we may not be able to give the optimum services that we should be giving.”

RELATED: DOH: Christmas parties possible 'super spreader' events 

Despite the possible surge in cases at the start of the year, Vergeire said the goal to ease community quarantine restrictions in the entire country by the second quarter of 2021 remains.

"Ang goal ng Philippine government na ang lahat ng local government units ay MGCQ na tayo, so ma-lower natin," she said.

[Translation: Our goal is for all local government units to ease to MGCQ.]