MANILA, Philippines — Experts monitoring the pandemic are urging local government units (LGUs) to prepare health systems and personnel amid the possible surge of COVID-19 cases, especially in Metro Manila, following the holidays and other so-called super spreader events.
With testing centers resuming normal operations following the holidays, the OCTA Research Group said it has monitored an upward trend in the number of new daily cases recorded in Metro Manila in the past week.
From the average of 292 daily new cases recorded from Dec. 28 to Jan. 3, the group said COVID-19 infections jumped to 353 from Jan. 4 to 10. The average daily number of cases in the region was 426 from Dec. 21 to 27.
“Given the reality of an uptick in cases following the increase in mobility and social gatherings during the holiday as well as the impact of super spreader events such as the celebration of the Black Nazarene feast, there is a possibility of a significant surge in COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila in the next few weeks,” read the report released by OCTA yesterday.
“There is a clear upward trend now… and if this continues, the local governments will need to implement measures to reverse this direction before the pandemic gets out of hand,” it added.
The group said the reproduction figure, which indicates the number of persons a positive individual can infect, was at 1.17 in Metro Manila as of Jan. 10.
Before the onset of the holiday season, the reproductive number in Metro Manila remained below 1.0 since a downward trend was observed in September last year. It went up to 1.02 last Dec. 21 before dropping again in the following days as testing was reduced by more than 40 percent, said OCTA.
Quezon City still has the most number of average daily new cases at 76. However, it is 10th among 17 LGUs in Metro Manila if the number of cases per population is taken into account (2.12 percent per 100,000 residents).
Makati still has the highest average daily cases per 100,000 population at 4.05 percent, followed by Pasay and Pateros at 3.97 percent and 3.91 percent, respectively.
Among all LGUs in the region, OCTA expressed concern over the upward trend in Marikina, which increased by 127 percent from 11 to 25 average daily cases in the past week.
“Marikina also had the highest positivity rate among Metro Manila LGUs at 11 percent,” it added, referring to the number of individuals who tested positive out of the total tests conducted.
The Department of Health (DOH) admitted that the number of COVID-19 cases has increased.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, however, said they need another week to determine whether the spike in cases was due to the holiday season.
Vergeire said the operations of testing laboratories were reduced during the holidays so the current outputs may not be reflective of the actual numbers.
She said laboratories were receiving minimal specimens because of the low health-seeking behavior of the people during the holiday.
DOH data showed that laboratory outputs decreased by 30 percent during the Christmas season.
Vergeire said the operations of laboratories normalized on Jan. 4.
Outside Metro Manila, OCTA identified several provinces of concern due to an increase in the average number of daily cases as well as a positivity rate of above 10 percent.
These include Davao Del Sur (including Davao City), Isabela, Quezon, Misamis Oriental, Pangasinan, Agusan del Sur and Negros Oriental.
OCTA also noted a positivity rate of more than 10 percent in Benguet, Leyte and Davao Del Norte, as well as increase in new cases in Pampanga, Cebu (including Cebu City) and Zamboanga del Sur.
“Davao del Norte had more than 70 percent hospital bed occupancy, while Rizal is near the critical level. For intensive care unit bed occupancy, Rizal, Quezon and Davao del Norte were above the 70 percent critical level,” the report said.
Health experts urged LGUs to further intensify their efforts at testing, tracing and isolation to reverse the increase in COVID-19 transmissions in their communities.
“The national government must ensure that effective and stricter border controls are in place to mitigate virus transmissions in airports and ports, as well as between provinces to prevent further transmissions, including the possible entry of the more infectious COVID-19 variant from the United Kingdom,” said OCTA. – Sheila Crisostomo