6,000 new daily cases seen by end-March if surge not contained — OCTA

Christian Deiparine - Philstar.com
6,000 new daily cases seen by end-March if surge not contained � OCTA
People shop at a market during a government imposed enhanced quarantine as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 novel coronavirus in Manila on April 21, 2020.
AFP / Maria Tan

MANILA, Philippines — New coronavirus cases in the country could reach as high as 6,000 a day by the end of March, the OCTA Research group said Sunday with a surge in infections seen in Metro Manila over the recent days.

The panel of experts in its latest forecast said additional cases in the capital region averaged 1,025 daily in the last seven days, translating to a 42% increase from the previous week.

Metro Manila's reproduction rate, which refers to the number of individuals that one COVID-19 positive can infect, is also now at 1.66 from 1 recorded in February.

Its positivity rate, meanwhile, also increased to an average of 8% in the last week.

"The last time the region had seen this rate of increase was in July 2020. However, this surge is spreading more quickly than the July-August surge," OCTA said, suggesting that new variants of the COVID-19 are driving the rise in cases.

Experts added that all cities in the National Capital Region had an upward trend in new cases, particularly a "very sharp two-week" increase of more than 40% in Quezon City, Makati, Taguig, as well as in Parañaque, Caloocan and Mandaluyong.

Four cities also remain as high risk areas, namely: Pasay with a daily attack rate of 30% per 100,000, Makati, Malabon and Natovas.

The said developments bring OCTA's projection of new cases in Metro Manila to 2,000 per day by March 21, and by end of the month, to at least 3,000.

Significant increases in Filipinos nationwide contracting the COVID-19 had been observed in the recent days.

Sunday's 3,276 more infections, for one, is the third straight day that the country reported above 3,000 new cases. Yesterday's 3,564 was also the highest daily rise since October 12 of last year.

Swift action sought

In its recommendations, OCTA stressed that that cases of new COVID-19 variants — particularly those first detected in the United Kingdom and South Africa that had now reached the country — should be contained.

"Whie this still needs to be confirmed by genome sequencing, we believe that the surge may be driven by new and more contagious and lethal variants," the panel said, "that could overwhelm the region if left unabated in the next few weeks."

Per figures by the health department, the country now has 118 cases from the B.1.1.7 variant or that one first seen in the UK, while 58 have already contracted the B.1.351 variant, or the variant detected in South Africa.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III in a report by the STAR said the rising number of new cases "cannot be linked directly" due to the new variants.

But, he said that it may also be a possibility along with the loosening up of more restrictions in government's bid to reopen more establishments for economic recovery.

It can be remembered that the entire country almost shifted to the least quarantine classification status this month per proposals by economic managers, only to be shot down by the president.

OCTA said the surge in cases in Metro Manila is a "serious cause for concern" but could still be managed if efforts are intensified, such as on testing, tracing and isolation.

Particularly, experts said there is a need for more effective localized lockdowns on areas in Metro Manila with rising cases. They said too that the rollout of vaccines, which began this month, should be urgent but efficient, "given that a surge in the NCR is now not a question of 'if' but of 'how much'."

The panel also sought to encourage health workers in Metro Manila and the neighboring provinces to be vaccinated as soon as possible, with Sinovac and Astrazeneca doses already in the country.

Philippine coronavirus cases by March 7 reached 594,412 with deaths now at 12,516. Of the overall figure, the DOH said 36,043 are considered as active cases.

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