OCTA suggests calibrated easing of restrictions in NCR to maintain downward trend in COVID cases

Marje Pelayo   •   May 10, 2021   •   118

MANILA, Philippines — The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) reproduction rate in the National Capital Region has gone down since the region was placed under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ), according to the OCTA Research Team.

However, UP Professor and OCTA Research Fellow Dr. Ranjit Rye said the region’s daily attack rate, positivity rate, and ICU occupancy in hospitals remain high.

“Generally speaking, the trend is downward for the whole region and NCR Plus. This is good for all of us. But we have also noted the daily attack rate is still high in many cities in the NCR,” the OCTA Research Group Fellow said.

“Second, the positivity rate is still high at 14 percent. And we’re hoping that in the next few days it will further improve. The third thing we need to look into, as Dr. Butch has also mentioned, is the fact that the ICU occupancy is still quite high,” he added.

Dr. Rye said the team understands why the government needs to extend stricter quarantine restrictions given the current situation.

“We can understand if the government will have discussions on extending the MECQ, really because we need some more time to heal. We also need some more time for government interventions, such as contact tracing and expansion of hospital capacity, apart from testing,” he said.

He said the trends right now are good although the NCR is “not yet where we are supposed to be as far as managing the crisis in the particular region is concerned.”

But they noted that the MECQ that the region is right now is not that which was implemented in August of last year in terms of mobility.

“If you look at the mobility numbers, we are actually much more comparable to a GCQ,” said UST Professor Nicanor Austriaco.

Austriaco added that while they understand the government’s move to open the economy, “we want to sustain the good trends that we have so far.”

President Rodrigo Duterte is set to announce the new quarantine classification soon and the team wants it done with caution.

“We will support whatever the government decides. What we’re suggesting is caution. What we’re suggesting is a calibrated slow exit strategy so that we can sustain the trends,” Dr. Rye noted.

One area of caution, he said, is to prevent the entry of the new and more contagious variant from India.

He said the group is awaiting the result of the [genome] sequencing done on the five COVID-19 positive individuals who entered the Philippines from India.

Rye added that another consideration is the rollout of improvement in COVID-response, such as infrastructure, training of contact tracing, and expansion of hospital facilities.

The OCTA research team reported improvements in hospital occupancy in Metro Manila even as the daily attack rate continues to drop.

“We will expect similarly, with about 2 or 3-week delay, a drop in cases,” Prof. Austriaco said.

Meanwhile, taking note of the data from Israel, the U.K., and the U.S., the team said it will help if, at least, 45 to 50% of the population will be vaccinated to see the effect of the government’s vaccination program on the number of COVID-19 cases.

“Which means here in NCR, we have to vaccinate about six million people of our 12 million people here before we see a substantial effect on the number of cases,” Austriaco added hoping that the government’s vaccine strategy and vaccine campaign will be realized before the end of the year.

As of May 9, there are 1,101,990 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country. Of this number, a total of 1,022,224 have recovered while 18,472 succumbed to the disease.

Two cities in NCR record over 30,000 single-day vaccination

Aileen Cerrudo   •   June 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Two cities in the National Capital Region (NCR) have recorded over 30,000 single-day coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination.

The City of Manila recorded over 35,000 vaccination on Tuesday (June 22), while Quezon City recorded more than 37,000 last Monday (June 21).

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) is confident that it is only a matter of time before Metro Manila reaches herd immunity.

Based on the record of the MMDA, from around 14 million population in Metro Manila, 3.6 million are already vaccinated. Out of the 3.6 million, 2.6 million received the first dose while over 877,000 received the second dose.

MMDA Chairman Benjamin Abalos Jr. said they are expecting more supply of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“So let us assume there‘s a continuous supply of vaccines, at the end of September, majority of the population is more than achievable,” he said.

Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte assures that there will be enough vaccine supply available for individuals interested to be vaccinated.

“We are constantly evolving our system. We are constantly developing our systems as we read through the sentiments of our people and listen to their voices. We are responding,” she said.

Meanwhile, in other areas in Metro Manila, San Juan City vaccinated a total of 74,321 of its residents as of June 22; Caloocan City recorded 322,706 vaccinations as of June 19;  a total of 169,297 vaccinations in Mandaluyong City as of June 21; while Las Piñas has 148,949 residents vaccinated as of June 17.

San Juan City Mayor Francis Zamora is optimistic that the city will reach herd immunity by August.

“Iyon ating August timeline ay very achievable. Kaya nga tayo magdadagdag ng additional site pa sa Greenhills upang ang ating araw araw na 3,000 nababakunahan ay ma-schedule for second dose,” he said.

(Our August timeline is very achievable. That is why we opened additional [vaccination] sites in Greenhills for the 3,000 daily vaccinated individuals to have the second dose.)

Abalos estimates that the remaining population in Metro Manila will be able to receive the vaccine if LGUs continue to boost their vaccination efforts to increase the number of people vaccinated daily. AAC (with reports from Asher Cadapan Jr.)

NCR now low risk for COVID-19; 4 regions at high risk — DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   June 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The National Capital Region (NCR) is now categorized as a low-risk area for COVID-19 amid a decreasing number of infections, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Wednesday.

In an online press briefing, DOH Epidemiology Bureau director Dr. Alethea De Guzman said Metro Manila has been exhibiting a declining virus growth rate in the past two weeks.

“Para po sa NCR, siya po ay na-classify na po ngayon natin at low risk dahil nagpakita siya ng pagbaba ng kaso by 23% in the last 2 weeks,” De Guzman said.

She said that from June 16 to 22, the NCR averaged 685 new cases daily, which is lower than its average of 825 cases from June 9 to 15.

The region’s average daily attack rate (ADAR) was logged at 5.7 cases per 100,000, hospital occupancy rate at 36.29 percent, and intensive care unit utilization rate at 45.83 percent.

Among the NCR Plus 8 areas, Laguna has yet to show a decline in cases, De Guzman said, as she noted that Calabarzon province is still exhibiting a plateau of COVID-19 cases.

The NCR was once the epicenter of COVID-19 in the Philippines.

“Kung dati nakikita natin na ang NCR ang number 1, in the last few days, it’s region CALABARZON as well as the inclusion of regions and areas from Visayas and Mindanao,” De Guzman said.

In Luzon, De Guzman said, almost all areas have exhibited declining cases except for the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).

“For Luzon naman po, lahat ng mga lugar ay nagpapakita ng pagbaba ng kaso liban po sa CAR… parang halos flat po ang kaniyang linya,” she said.

While the NCR is now low-risk for COVID-19, four other regions have been flagged as high-risks after showing an increase in cases and bed occupancy rates.

These are Caraga, Regions 6, 11, and 12.

The average daily attack rate (ADAR) of coronavirus in Caraga is at 9.95 cases per 100,000, Region 6 at 8.83, Region 11 at 8.16, and Region 12 at 7.01.

De Guzman said that all four regions logged positive two-week case growth rates while Region 11’s ICU utilization rate was at high or critical risk.

Other areas where ICU occupancy rates have also reached the critical risk classification were Regions 2, 6, 10, and 12.

Nationwide, the trend of COVID-19 cases is showing signs of decline but De Guzman said there is still a need to reduce the number of daily cases as the current figure is still far from the pre-surge levels.

“Although we are happy that these numbers are going down, it is still far from our pre-spike levels of less than 2,000 cases per day nationally,” she said.

She urged the public to help reduce infections by following health protocols such as the proper wearing of face masks and observing physical distancing.

The implementation of the Prevent, Detect, Isolate, Treat, Reintegrate (PDITR) response at the community level should also be intensified, as well as the contact tracing and vaccination efforts. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

PH lists 4,353 new COVID-19 infections; active cases at 49,862

Robie de Guzman   •   June 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines’ cumulative tally of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases reached 1,372,232 on Wednesday after the Department of Health (DOH) reported 4,353 additional infections.

In its latest bulletin, the DOH said the country’s number of active cases is down to 49,862. Of this figure, 90.4 percent are mild, .5 percent are asymptomatic, 1.49 percent are moderate, 2.1 percent are severe, and 1.5 percent are in critical condition.

The agency noted in its report that six laboratories failed to submit data on time.

The country’s recovery tally climbed to 1,298,442 after 7,139 more patients recuperated from the disease.

The number of COVID-related deaths rose to 23,928 with 119 new fatalities.

The DOH also reported a positivity rate of 11.4 percent out of 33,413 tests reported last June 21.

Data from the DOH also showed that 57 percent of the country’s ICU beds are occupied and 36 percent of ventilators are being used.

In the National Capital Region, 44 percent of the ICU beds are occupied while ventilators in use went down to 29 percent.

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