COVID numbers may exceed figures from past surges, says OCTA

Jaehwa Bernardo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 02 2022 08:54 AM | Updated as of Jan 02 2022 07:28 PM

Commuters head to the relocated bus loading and unloading area along Agham Road in Quezon City on October 15, 2020. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/File
Commuters head to the relocated bus loading and unloading area along Agham Road in Quezon City on October 15, 2020. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA (UPDATE) — The Philippines will continue to see a rise in COVID-19 infections in the coming days, with the numbers possibly surpassing figures from past surges, independent monitoring group OCTA Research said Sunday.

OCTA fellow Guido David said the group is projecting that the country will report 3,500 to 4,000 additional cases during the day, and that figures will rise in the next few days.

"I'm anticipating na after tomorrow (Monday), maybe Tuesday... tataas na naman iyong bilang ng kaso. Hindi pa ito nag-slow down. In fact, it's accelerating pa," said David, who noted that the spike is concentrated in Metro Manila.

(I'm anticipating that after tomorrow, maybe Tuesday... the cases will further rise. This is not yet slowing down. In fact, it's accelerating.)

"Right now, kung titingnan natin 'yong raw numbers, it looks like mahihigitan pa natin 'yong mga numero na nakita natin sa past surges," he added.

(Right now, if you look at the raw numbers, it looks like we're going to surpass the numbers that we've seen in past surges.)

Metro Manila's single-day positivity rate has reached 28 percent, David said, adding that the highest positivity rate in the previous surge was at 30 percent.

A worst case scenario is that the capital region will record more than 10,000 additional infections in a day, he said.

"Possible lang 'yan, not predicting it yet. Pero it seems like we're heading there," David said.

Lawmakers have criticized OCTA Research for the accuracy of its COVID-19 projections. The group said it uses data from the Department of Health.

Health reform advocate Dr. Tony Leachon, in a separate Teleradyo interview, estimated that cases may reach 20,000.

Dr. Maricar Limpin, president of the Philippine College of Physicians, reiterated the concern of health workers, who, according to her, will also be at risk because of their exposure to COVID-19 patients.

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But David said there is a possibility that hospitalization "won't be as bad" compared to past surges, noting the high vaccination rate in Metro Manila and other areas.

It was also possible that most patients will only experience mild symptoms, he added, but also warned that "there will still be some cases that will be severe and critical."

David and Leachon agreed that it is "highly likely" that the surge is driven by the highly contagious omicron variant, which has also triggered a rise in COVID-19 cases in other countries.

The Philippines has so far detected 14 cases of omicron.

David said it was also possible that the surge would not last long compared to previous ones, given the quick rise in infections. Previous surges usually lasted for about two to three months.

The researcher said the government should consider placing Metro Manila and its nearby provinces in a bubble to prevent rising infections from reaching other regions.

He added that provinces should also consider implementing stricter border control.

Metro Manila will be placed under the third-highest alert level starting Monday until Jan. 15 in a bid to contain COVID-19 infections.

"Kung hindi naman tayo magla-lockdown..., you have your choice - 'pag lalabas kayo, suot lang talaga ng face mask... Assume na people na makakasalubong niyo have it. And act accordingly," David said.

(If no lockdown is imposed..., you have your choice - when you go out, always wear a face mask... Assume that people you cross paths with have the virus. And act accordingly.)

"Kahit vaccinated pa kayo, 'wag tayong maging sobrang kampante. Assume na you can still get it kahit vaccinated tayo. Practice minimum public health standards. And I think we can live with this virus... Hopefully, by end of January or early February, baka mawala na 'tong wave na 'to."

(Let us not be complacent despite being vaccinated already. Let us assume that you can still get the virus despite being vaccinated already... Hopefully, by end of January or early February, we can already get over this new wave.)

Strengthen testing, vaccination

Meanwhile, Leachon urged the government to strengthen COVID-19 testing, including allowing the use of self-administered test kits, to curb infections.

He added that the government should ramp up the administration of booster shots to the vulnerable population, and primary vaccines to the unvaccinated.

The expert saw optimism due to the availability of anti-COVID pills such as molnupiravir in hospitals.

Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman Benhur Abalos said mayors in the capital region are scheduled to meet Sunday afternoon to discuss additional policies to control infections.

The Philippines on Saturday reported 3,617 new COVID cases, the highest in two months. The figure pushed the country's total caseload to 2,847,486.