COVID-19 pandemic in Metro Manila (NCR Plus bubble)

By JULMUNIR I. JANNARAL

The COVID-19 pandemic in Metro Manila is part of the worldwide pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2).

According to the Medical Bulletin from the Department of Health (DOH) the virus reached Metro Manila on January 30, 2020, when the first case of COVID-19 reached the Philippines in Manila.

Metro Manila is the worst affected region in the Philippines, where most cases are recorded, and is considered as the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

A state of calamity and community quarantine have been in place in the region since March 15.

Hence, Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal which is now known as NCR Plus bubble were placed under a stricter general community quarantine (GCQ) to control the surge in coronavirus cases in the country.

Now what do you mean by bubble?

A bubble setup applies to a cluster of people restricted from going in and out of a covered area unless they are authorized to do so.

NCR Plus Bubble

The term “NCR Plus” is a shortcut name for Metro Manila, which was previously under general community quarantine (GCQ), and the surrounding provinces which were under modified community quarantine.

Therefore, Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal — also known as the “NCR plus” — are placed under one bubble setup from March 22 to April 4, 2021 which means only authorized persons can do essential travel into and out of these areas. Essential travel between these provinces is also allowed.

It can be noted also that COVID-19 affects different people in different ways. Most infected people will develop mild to moderate illness and recover without hospitalization.

GCQ Bubble

Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal, have now been placed under a “GCQ Bubble” starting today, March 22 until April 4. And with the new adjustments in place, it looks like we’re getting a whole new name as well: “NCR Plus.”

DOH COVID-19 Situationer No. 393

As of May 24, 2021 the DOH recorded 49,917 active cases with the majority of the patients exhibiting mild symptoms (48,458 or 92.9 %) while 765 patients are in critical condition (1.9%).

COMMON SYMPTOMS OF COVID-19 PANDEMIC

What are the most common symptoms when a person is affected by COVID-19 in this pandemic?

The most common symptoms are the following: fever; dry cough; and tiredness.

On the other hand, the less common symptoms are the following: aches and pains; sore throat; diarrhea; loss of taste or smell; and a rash on skin, or discoloration of fingers or toes.

1st Case of COVID-19 in the Philippines

After a month of no new cases in the country, the first case of someone without travel history abroad was confirmed on March 5, 2020 on a 62-year-old male who frequented a Masjid (a Muslim Prayer Hall) in Greenhills Shopping Center in San Juan, Metro Manila. For confidentiality and with due respect to the bereaved family we cannot divulge his identity. But he was a close family friend being a fraternity brother of this writer.

This has raised suspicions that a community transmission of COVID-19 was already underway in the Philippines since last year.

The man’s wife was also confirmed to have been afflicted with COVID-19 on March 7, 2020 and later on succumbed to this pandemic disease. Indeed, this has confirmed the suspicion that there was already local transmission of the dreaded Coronavirus.

NCR Plus
GCQ with Heightened Restrictions from May 15-31, 2021

In a taped meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque however noted that this is going to be General Community Quarantine (GCQ) “with heightened restrictions” from May 15-31, 2021.

The so-called NCR Plus comprising Metro Manila, Rizal, Bulacan, Cavite, and Laguna is now downgraded to General Community Quarantine (GCQ) that started last May 15 until May 30, Malacanang announced.

Meanwhile, Santiago City in Quirino province, Ifugao province, and Zamboanga City will remain under the stricter Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) until May 31, 2021.

All other areas will be under the most lenient modified GCQ until May 31.

GCQ ‘with heightened restrictions’

Religious gatherings, necrological services, wakes, internment, and funerals for those who died of causes other than COVID-19 in NCR Plus are allowed only at 10% of the venue capacity.

Roque said individuals aged 18 to 65 are allowed to leave their places of residence in GCQ areas with heightened restrictions.

The NCR Plus already underwent a two-week enhanced community quarantine from March 29 until April 11 following a surge in new COVID-19 cases.

It was later downgraded to MECQ from April 12 to April 30 and extended until May 14.

Statistics of COVID-19

The National Capital Region (NCR) has been identified anew as the epicenter of the latest surge in new COVID-19 cases in the Philippines.

This rise in infections has prompted the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infections Diseases (IATF) to place Metro Manila and nearby provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal – or the so-called NCR Plus, back under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) bubble, to prevent COVID-19 transmissions from spilling over to adjacent areas.

But how serious and widespread is this current surge, and how are the cases distributed per region or local government unit (LGU)?

A list of active COVID-19 cases in every LGU within the “NCR Plus” bubble was collated from the Department of Health (DOH).

Based on the DOH’s COVID-19 tracker data as of April 1, the Philippines has 138,948 active infections, with the “NCR Plus” bubble accounting for 72 percent or 100,298 of the cases.

Metro Manila has a total of 76,440 active COVID-19 cases.

Quezon City, based on the DOH data, has the most number of active COVID-19 cases with with 15,593, followed by the City of Manila (11,790), Makati City (5,548), Caloocan City (5,303) and Taguig City (4,979).

The 12 other NCR cities and town logged the following number of active COVID-19 cases:

Pasig (4,796)
Pasay (4,679)
Parañaque (4,183)
Marikina (3,654)
Mandaluyong (3,521)
Las Piñas (2,464)
Valenzuela (2,296)
Malabon (2,007)
Navotas (1,821)
Muntinlupa (1,545)
San Juan (1,306)
Pateros (521)
Unknown city of origin (434)
Outside Metro Manila, most of the active cases are in Cavite with 8,254, followed by Rizal (6,759), Laguna (4,427) and Bulacan (4,418).

Vaccines Now Used in the Philippines

The Philippines received the first COVID-19 vaccine delivery from Sinovac.

The arrival of donated Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines from China paves the way for the start of the Philippines’ inoculation campaign among the last to start in Southeast Asia.

Thus the Philippines’ first batch of coronavirus vaccines arrived in the country on Sunday, February 28, paving the way for the start of its mass inoculation campaign with shots developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech. “There is light at the end of the tunnel. That is light at the end of the tunnel,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in an interview with state-run network PTV. “At least nagsimula na po tayo. At tuluy-tuloy na po.” (At least we have started. And this will continue.)

The delivery of 600,000 doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac – a donation from the Chinese government – was witnessed by President Rodrigo Duterte, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health says it will no longer allow local governments to announce which brand of coronavirus vaccines will be available at inoculation sites.

The move comes after hundreds of people this week lined up at a site in Manila when they found out the Pfizer vaccine would be given out there.

The DOH said only people already in line at a vaccination site will be told which shot they’ll get and “if they do not like the vaccines that are given during that time, then they go to the end of the line.”

The residents of Manila have lined up outside the Manila Prince Hotel as early as 2 a.m. for a chance to get one of the 900 Pfizer jabs that the local government announced could be given to walk-ins.

VACCINE ROLLOUT UPDATE : As of 25 May 2021, 6:00 p.m. a total of 4,495,375 doses have already been administered.

Of this, 3,466,314 are 1st doses, and 1,029,061 are 2nd doses.

Over 1 million people have also been fully vaccinated.

On the 12th week of the national vaccination campaign, the DOH sees steady increase in weekly vaccination output, the highest since it was launched in March 2021.

The government enjoins all Filipinos belonging to priority groups A1 to A3 to register, get vaccinated and complete the required number of doses as scheduled. All vaccinated individuals are also reminded to continue practicing the minimum public health standards.

Vaccines Interval of Doses

The COVID-19 vaccines like the Sinovac CoronaVac and Oxford-AstraZeneca are being given with two (2) doses.

One should get equal amount of doses so that patients can get the highest level of protection from COVID-19.

The number of doses are the following: Oxford AstraZeneca: 2 doses, 4-12 weeks interval.

Sinovac CoronaVac: 2 doses, 28 days (4 weeks interval).

Pfizer: 12 years of age and above. 2-dose series separated by 21 days. A series started with COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer) should be completed with this product.

The other vaccines are the following: Gamaleya Sputnik; Johnson & Johnson’s Jannsen; Bharat BioTech; and Moderna vaccine. JIJ

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