KUWTT: Serious Covid surge sweeps Metro Manila Mar 19, 2021

Good day. Here are the stories for The Manila Times for Friday, March 19, 2021.

READ: Serious Covid surge sweeps Metro Manila

Metro Manila is in the middle of a “serious surge” in coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases, according to the group tracking the pandemic situation in the country. The number of cases in what is officially designated as the National Capital Region (NCR) jumped by 78 percent from the previous week, OCTA Research noted in its March 17 report. OCTA ticked off the alarming figures even as the Department of Health (DoH) reported 5,290 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, ramping up the total to 640,984 cases in the country.

READ: ICU utilization rate ‘a bit’ alarming – Palace

Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said the 64 percent Intensive Care Units (ICU) utilization rate in Metro Manila is “a bit” alarming. However, Health Undersecretary and treatment czar Leopoldo Vega, who also attended the press briefing, said the utilization rate is alarming, as it is considered a “moderate risk”.

READ: Covid to become seasonal – UN

Covid-19 appears likely to develop into a seasonal disease, the United Nations said Thursday, cautioning though against relaxing pandemic-related measures simply based on meteorological factors. More than a year after the novel coronavirus first surfaced in China, a number of mysteries still surround the spread of the disease that has killed nearly 2.7 million people worldwide.

READ: More Filipinos embrace online shopping

Global technology company Visa is confident that digital transactions in the Philippines will continue to improve after a study showed that more Filipinos shopped online for the first time last year. Visa Country Manager for the Philippines and Guam Dan Wolbert said the firm’s latest Consumer Payment Attitudes study showed that more Filipinos started to go on digital commerce platforms and make cashless payments in 2020.

READ: DTI orders temporary closure of businesses

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) ordered the closure of a number of businesses and establishments including driving schools, traditional cinemas, gaming arcades, museums, and cultural centers located in general community quarantine (GCQ) areas for two weeks due to the rising number of coronavirus cases. Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said meetings, international conventions and events would also be limited to a 30-percent capacity.

READ: Patient’s death won’t stop vaccine rollout – DoH

The government will not suspend the mass inoculation against coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) despite the death of a Covid patient after she was vaccinated. Details of the death of the 47-year-old female patient have come into light after it was revealed on Wednesday. According to Dr. Rommel Crisenio Lobo, vice chairman of the Department of Health’s (DoH) National Adverse Events Following Immunization, the woman, whose name was withheld, was given a shot of Sinovac Biotech Ltd.’s CoronaVac after she was infected with the virus on March 8 and hospitalized on March 10. The patient died three days later, Lobo said.

READ: House locked down until Sunday

The entire Batasan Complex in Quezon City, home to the House of Representatives, will be locked down until Sunday. In a statement, the House stated they will have a temporary lockdown from March 18 to 21. A day earlier, House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez said he had tested positive for the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

A statement issued on Thursday stated that Speaker Lord Allan Velasco issued the lockdown order Wednesday night to House Secretary General Mark Llandro Mendoza. Velasco said the lockdown in a precautionary measure to protect the health of the members and employees of the House.

READ: Govt eyes vaccine deal with J&J

THE Philippines may sign a deal to secure doses of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson through the Covax facility, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said on Thursday. Galvez made the announcement after Johnson & Johnson secured an emergency use listing (EUL) from the World Health Organization (WHO). The Philippines earlier received 600,000 Sinovac shots as a donation from China and 525,600 shots of Britain’s AstraZeneca vaccine through Covax. Galvez said the country’s supply agreement with Johnson & Johnson was expected to be signed soon.

READ: DILG to deploy more contact tracers in Metro

MORE contact tracers (CT) will be deployed to the National Capital Region (NCR) as part of the government’s effort to contain the spread of Covid-19, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said on Thursday. The Philippine National Police (PNP) will deploy an additional 362 uniformed personnel to Metro Manila while the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) will assign an additional 100 uniformed personnel — 40 in Pasay City and 60 in Quezon City. Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said that this is on top of the 300 contact tracers to be deployed by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to various LGUs.

BUSINESS: BoP surplus seen shrinking to $6.2B

In business, the Philippines may incur a lower balance of payments (BoP) surplus this year, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). Data shared by central bank Governor Benjamin Diokno showed on Thursday that the BSP now anticipates a $6.2-billion BoP surplus this year, equivalent to 1.6 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). The latest forecast compares to the $16 billion payments balance surplus recorded in 2020.

SPORTS: Oftana excited to play for Guiao

Over to sports, NLEX Road Warriors head coach Yeng Guiao is known for being tough, stern and borderline mean towards his players. But Calvin Oftana isn’t fazed about his coach’s reputation. Instead, he is excited to play for Guiao, who picked him third overall in the 2021 PBA Rookie Draft last Sunday.

READ: Opinion and editorial

Rigoberto Tiglao and Ruben Torres are today’s front page columnists. Tiglao believes President Rodrigo Duterte extracted benefits with China and the United States, while Torres talks about the portability of union membership.

Today’s editorial discusses the recent lockdowns in Congress. Read the full version on the paper’s Opinion Section or listen to the Voice of The Times.

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With Dafort Villaseran, this is Aric John Sy Cua reporting. May you have a safe Friday ahead.