Independent researchers tracking the COVID-19 pandemic said Sunday Metro Manila is already in the early stages of a coronavirus surge most likely because of the Delta variant as the Department of Health reported 55 new cases of the more transmissible strain.
The new cases involving the virulent strain brought the total number of Delta infections to 119. Of the 55, one has died while the rest have been tagged as recovered. Seventeen involved returning overseas Filipinos, while 37 were local cases, while one is still being verified.
OCTA said on Sunday that the COVID-19 reproduction number in Metro Manila rose from 1.21 to 1.29.
COVID-19 cases further increased by 43 percent after the metropolis recorded an average of 897 new virus infections per day from July 18 to July 24, OCTA said.
“This is a cause for concern but it’s not irreversible,” said Guido David of the OCTA Research Group, in an interview with ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo.
“If we don’t focus on this, this could escalate to a surge similar to what we saw in March [and] April,” David said.
In the National Capital Region (NCR), Valenzuela City at 1.61 has the highest reproduction number, or the number of people infected by a virus patient. It is followed by Manila at 1.43, David said.
David said Metro Manila’s placement under general community quarantine with heightened restrictions and the prohibition of children aged 5 and above from going outdoors would help in controlling the surge.
He said a curfew, border controls, and fully-vaccinated individuals may also mitigate the surge.
Some 20 percent of the capital region’s population have received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine, he said.
“If we can beat the Delta variant, it would be a big victory for us,” he said, comparing this to an “Olympic victory.”
“The current trend in NCR over the past week follows the course from Feb. 14 to 21, when a surge was in its early stages,” OCTA Research warned.
The group also earlier advised the national government to implement stricter quarantine status when early stages of the surge was detected in Metro Manila.
They said that the surge could be driven by the more transmissible Delta variant.
OCTA also said the positivity rate in Metro Manila rose to 7 percent, while hospital capacity and occupancy of intensive care units remained low or below 60 percent.
For the whole country, the reproduction number (the rate an infected person can infect others) was at 1.09, with average daily cases from 5,063 to 5,817, they said.
OCTA has identified Valenzuela, Manila, Makati, Caloocan and Las Piñas as cities with increasing cases.
“Valenzuela, Makati and Las Piñas are considered high-risk areas,” the researchers said.
For Luzon, it said that Laoag in Ilocos Norte has continued to be in a near-critical state with 1.82 infection rate, 53.64 incidence rate, and 29 percent positivity rate. New cases there rose by 38 percent from 45 to 62.
On Friday, some health workers in Ilocos Norte called for a two-week timeout from the government to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases.
Mariveles, Bataan in Central Luzon is also at critical risk, with 1.45 infection rate, 22.53 incidence rate and 19 percent positivity rate. New cases in the town went down from 64 to 47.
Aside from Mariveles, Bataan, OCTA indicated that Cagayan de Oro in Northern Mindanao is also at critical risk from COVID-19, after it detected several Delta variant cases.
“Cagayan de Oro is now classified as a critical-risk area due to high levels of infection, ICU utilization, and positivity rate (testing),” OCTA said.
New cases in Cagayan de Oro have more than doubled from July 18 to July 24. Fresh cases went up by 109 percent from 56 to 117.
The infection rate in Cagayan de Oro rose to 1.54, incidence rate was at 16.01, utilization rate of intensive care units was at 85 percent, and positivity rate rose to 27 percent.
The Health Department recorded eight active cases of the Delta variant, of which, four were from Cagayan de Oro.
Infections in Davao City, and General Santos City slowed down but are still classified as high-risk areas, OCTA said.
While new cases in Davao decreased by 7 percent, incidence rate was still at 11.23, ICU occupancy was at 83 percent and positivity rate was at 16 percent.
In General Santos City, new cases went up by 13 percent from 60 to 68. Its infection rate was at 1.05, incidence rate at 10.51, ICU utilization rate at 69 percent and positivity rate at 26 percent.
The cities of Cebu, Lapu Lapu, and Mandaue have reported an uptick in fresh cases.
In the Visayas, OCTA warned that Cebu City is reporting a rise in fresh cases, after its reproduction number rose to 1.90.
OCTA experts found that Cebu City’s new cases grew by 82 percent from 96 to 175.
“In February 2021, Cebu City reached a peak of 220 daily cases and a peak reproduction number of 1.90, so it looks possible that this current surge will eclipse the previous surge in February 2021,” the independent research team said.
Fresh cases in Lapu Lapu City also increased by 60 percent from 47 to 75. Its reproduction number was at 1.96 and incidence rate was at 16.48.
As for Mandaue City, fresh cases climbed to 53 from 23, which increased by 130 percent. The reproduction number was at 2.16.
“Elsewhere in Visayas, the trends have slowed down in Bacolod and Iloilo City, although the latter is still considered high risk,” OCTA also said.
The Department of Health (DOH), meanwhile, said its panel of experts will meet next week to study if the Philippines needs to be placed under stricter quarantine protocols in August.
Government authorities tightened several policies earlier this week after the number of Delta variant carriers in the country tripled to about 70 people, from just 19 earlier this month.
The Delta variant is known to be more contagious than the original COVID-19 strain as one carrier could infect up to eight people at any given time, the DOH said.
The National Capital Region (NCR) and four other provinces were placed under stricter general community quarantine (GCQ) after Delta variant cases were detected in these regions.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the move to place these areas under GCQ with heightened restrictions means that non-essential activities are not allowed.
“These superspreader events are not allowed and non-essential activities should be stopped,” Lopez said, during a televised press conference with President Rodrigo Duterte and other Cabinet members.
“The opening of some areas is focused on the economy, not on non-essential activities,” he added.
Lopez said among the activities and businesses allowed to continue are operations in manufacturing, business process outsourcing and exporting.
“We are allowing economic activities to continue... As long as we follow health standards we can maintain our momentum,” he said. “Our economy is restarting. We are slowly regaining strength.”
The Philippines logged 5,479 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, bringing the total number of infections to 1,548,755.
Ninety-three new fatalities brought the COVID-19 death toll to 27,224.
The DOH reported 5,573 persons who recently recovered, bringing the total recoveries to 1,467,269.
There were 54,262 active cases, of which 93.4 percent were mild, 1.2 percent were asymptomatic, 1.4 percent were critical, 2.3 percent were severe, and 1.63 percent were moderate.
Nationwide, 57 percent of the ICU beds, 47 percent of the isolation beds, 44 percent of the ward beds, and 38 percent of the ventilators, were in use.
In Metro Manila, 46 percent of the ICU beds, 41 percent of the isolation beds, 37 percent of the ward beds, and 36 percent of the ventilators, were in use.
Meanwhile, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar ordered local police offices to make sure children are not out on the streets or in public areas after the national government prohibited kids from going outdoors due to the threat of the Delta variant.
Eleazar also appealed to the parents to watch their children and to not let them go outdoors.
He asked for their cooperation so that the Delta variant would not quickly spread.