Govt to increase bed, telemedicine capacity as hospitals battle with COVID-19 surge

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 9) — The government on Sunday said it will increase the availability of beds in Metro Manila and nearby provinces in response to the surge in coronavirus cases.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said that upon the recommendation of the national COVID-19 Inter-Agency Task Force, more beds will be made available for infected patients in NCR Plus areas, which include Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal.

The country has been logging record-breaking numbers of new infections and positivity rates in recent days, hitting 28,707 fresh cases on Sunday — its highest-ever single-day count. The positivity rate, or the percentage of infected people out of all tested on the same day, also climbed to an all-time high 44%.

Meanwhile, telemedicine capacity outside Metro Manila will be raised to help decongest hospitals feeling the strain of rising admissions, Nograles said.

The National Task Force Against COVID-19 has also been directed to expand the capacity of temporary treatment and monitoring facilities “where needed,” and remove referral quotas from hospitals.

Only those requiring hospitalization will be prioritized by emergency operations centers, based on the IATF's recommendations. Nograles reiterated the government's advice for mild or asymptomatic patients to just isolate at home, but he added local government units should still be able to provide them with services such as telemedicine and immediate referral to health facilities if necessary.

READ: What you need to know about COVID-19 home isolation and quarantine

The official added that there will be intensified active case finding and contact tracing efforts, especially in NCR Plus. RT-PCR testing capacity will also be increased in these areas by ensuring all laboratories are operational seven days a week. The IATF has recommended that senior citizens and people with comorbidities be prioritized for testing.

“Finally, the National Vaccination Operations Center is directed to increase vaccination rates outside NCR as soon as possible,” Nograles said.

Latest government data show the country's total COVID-19 case count has jumped to over 2.96 million. Active cases, or currently ill patients, have reached over 128,000 from just around 21,000 a week ago.