THE PHILIPPINES recorded more than 7,000 new coronavirus infections in the past week, according to health authorities.

A total of 7,398 new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infections were recorded from June 27 to July 3, 60% higher than the cases on June 20-26, the Department of Health said in a bulletin on Monday.

Of the latest total cases, 19 or 0.26%  were critical, it said. It added that 74 new deaths were “verified” during the past week and that “zero deaths occurred on June 20 to July 3.”

The agency said 381 or 15.3% of 2,487 intensive care unit (ICU) beds were in use as of July 3, while 4,342 or 19.9% of 21,791 non-ICU beds were occupied.

It added that 497 severe and critical coronavirus patients or 8.4% of total admissions were staying in hospitals.

The Health department said 70.78 million people have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus as of July 3, while 15.15 million people have received booster shots.

Meanwhile, a bill that seeks to create a Medical Reserve Corps whose members will be deployed in case of health emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic has been refiled in the House of Representatives.

The measure passed the lower chamber in the previous Congress but remained pending at the Senate committee.

House Bill No. 2, filed on Friday, “aims to enhance the capacity of our country to produce and call on the needed manpower and expand its human health resources in times of disasters and public health emergencies of both national and local scale through the mobilization of a medical reserve force specifically trained to supplement the existing human health resources to ease the burden in our healthcare system.”

Leyte Rep. Martin G. Romualdez, the presumptive House speaker, said in a statement on Monday: “The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the inability of the country’s health care system to cope with the surge of patients needing medical care due to lack of medically-trained personnel.”

At present, the country has a shortage of 290,000 health workers, aggravated by an annual migration of 13,000 health care professionals, he said.

According to the World Health Organization, there were only six medical doctors per 10,000 Filipinos in 2017, lower than its recommended 10 physicians per 10,000 population.

Under the proposal, the Medical Reserve Corps will be under the Health Emergency Management Bureau of the Health department.

They may be mobilized to help monitor suspected cases and conduct contact-tracing during disease outbreaks, help implement quarantine measures, and provide logistics and manpower for large-scale disaster and health emergency operations.

Mobilization centers will be established in every province once the bill is passed into law. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza and Alyssa Nicole O. Tan