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OCTA: Metro Manila now seeing 'serious surge' in COVID-19 cases

Christian Deiparine - Philstar.com
OCTA: Metro Manila now seeing 'serious surge' in COVID-19 cases
Passengers bound to their respective destination line up at EDSA carousel bus station in Caloocan City on March 17, 2021.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Metro Manila is now going through a "serious surge" in coronavirus cases, the OCTA Research said Wednesday, with reproduction rate at its highest since May 2020.

In its March 17 update, the independent panel of experts said the capital region's reproduction number — referring to how many individuals a single COVID-19 positive can infect — is now at 1.96.

This was up from the 1.95 that OCTA's Prof. Guido David reported on March 14, and from the 1.66 on March 7.

"NCR reported 2,231 new COVID-19 cases on March 16, 2021," the group said. "This represents a 78% increase in new cases compared to one week ago."

The positivity rate in Metro Manila has also increased to 12%, with screening for the virus up by 18% or 24,300 a day. The former refers to the number of persons who turn out positive out of the total tests ran.

And with a daily attack rate of 15.9 per 100,000 over the last seven days, the region is now classified as high risk, OCTA added. In the last week, "very high" attack rates were seen particularly in four areas, namely: Pasay with a daily attack rate of 44.7, Makati (27.4), Santiago in Isabela province (25.4%), and Navotas (23.5%).

"In Santiago, there was one reported case for the entire week of March 3 to 9," OCTA said, "but this increased to 244 for the week of March 10 to 16."

Despite Metro Manila seeing a surge, the experts said the three cities mentioned saw a slowing down of cases compared to the previous week. 

They added that while the focus has recently been on NCR, certain areas in the Calabarzon region are seeing a surge too. OCTA said these are Bacoor, Imus and Dasmariñas in Cavite, as well as Antipolo and Cainta in Rizal.

Curbing increases

Experts said the localized lockdowns in Pasay and Navotas contributed to the decrease in the reproduction number to 1.8 from a previous 2.4. While the number is still above 1, OCTA said it "gives us confidence that localized lockdowns work to some extent."

"[It] may work against variant-drive surges, but they are more effective in tandem with expanded testing, contact tracing and supported isolation," the group said.

OCTA said localized lockdowns, curfews and stricter adherence to healtg protocols could reduce Metro Manila's daily cases by end of the month to less than 4,000, assuming that the reproduction number reaches a flat 2.0.

They previously warned daily cases could go as high as 7,500 if the surge isn't addressed. 

"It is also possible that the combined effects of the local governments and the citizens will further reduce the transmission rate and lower the reproduction number in NCR," the experts added. "If this happens, we will hopefully see fewer COVID-19 daily cases in the NCR."

Metro Manila is now days into a two-week unified curfew. A roundup by Philstar.com showed that thousands were apprehended in just the first night of the 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew.

But apart from curfews, a coalition of healthcare professionals has urged the decongestion of workplaces through staggered working hours and allowing work from home arrangements.

The Healthcare Professionals Alliance against COVID-19 also sought an end to government pinning the blame on the public.

"They're doing everything they can to comply," HPAAC'S Dr. Antonio Dans said. "But we force them into crowds, we force them into enclosed spaces."

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