Hospital admissions due to COVID-19 rising

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 6) — The Department of Health on Saturday confirmed an increase in the number of COVID-19 patients being admitted to hospitals, with some facilities reporting a doubling and even tripling of cases.

“We have been receiving reports na mayroon talagang pagtaas ng mga numero ng mga pasyente sa mga ospital (that there’s really an increase in the number of patients in hospitals) for COVID-19 cases,” Department of Health Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said during the government’s Laging Handa media briefing.

Vergeire said the department has called for a meeting with the heads of certain hospitals to discuss the spike in admissions.

The Philippine General Hospital, a major COVID-19 referral hospital, is now treating 102 infected patients as of Saturday, up from 60 in February.

“Now that it’s increasing again, we have no choice but to reopen another ward for our COVID patients,” Dr. Jonas Del Rosario, PGH spokesperson, told CNN Philippines. “We are already being proactive and getting our troops back to man the COVID wards.”

At St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig, COVID-19 patients have tripled, from 20 in mid-February, to 64 on Saturday.

“I can tell you, around February 25, which is a holiday, our numbers were still in the low 20s. And our ICU occupancy rate was around two-thirds. But surprisingly over the weekend, the past weekend and early this week, we saw the numbers started to rise,” said Dr. Dennis Serrano, Vice President for Medical Practice Group & Assistant Chief Medical Officer at St. Luke’s Global City.

“We’ve seen a doubling or tripling in the daily average admissions that we had,” he said.

St. Luke’s in a public advisory disputed posts circulating online claiming its ICU and ward capacities are full. The hospital said that although it has seen an increase in COVID-19 admissions, the system remains “at manageable levels.”

The COVID-19 variants detected in the country could have driven the surge, Serrano said, but stressed that they need the data to confirm this.

Whole genome sequencing has confirmed several cases of the B.1.351 variant first discovered in South Africa, and the B.1.1.7 variant from the United Kingdom. Both are believed to be more contagious, while researchers in South Africa warned that the variant found there could decrease the efficacy of vaccines.

In an inoculation drive at Cardinal Santos Medical Center in San Juan, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the surge in infections “cannot be solely attributed to the variants.” He noted that samples found with the UK variant comprised only 3% of the specimens that underwent genome sequencing. The South Africa variant was detected in 2% of the samples, he said.

Health reform advocate and former COVID-19 task force adviser Dr. Tony Leachon said there is now a “second surge,” urging the public to “protect ourselves” as the government continues to ease quarantine restrictions.

Duque said it’s too early to call it a second wave, adding that the country’s epidemiologists are still monitoring the situation.

The Philippines recorded more than 3,000 COVID-19 cases on both Friday and Saturday as the country continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic with only 1.1 million vaccine doses reaching the country to date.

CNN Philippines' Lois Calderon and Eimor Santos contributed to this report.