OCTA Group says yet to see impact of Nazarene feast, new COVID-19 variant on PH caseload

Aleta Nieva Nishimori, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 16 2021 12:10 PM

MANILA - The OCTA Research Group said on Saturday that they have yet to see the effects of the Feast of the Black Nazarene, which saw the gathering of thousands of devotees last week, and the new variant of COVID-19 on the number of infections in the country. 

The recent rise in infections may be attributed to increased activity over the holidays, said the group's Dr. Guido David, adding that the reproduction rate or doubling time of infected persons was stabilizing.

“We’re hoping na hindi siya naging superspeader [event] kasi we're not seeing any indications yet. 'Yung nakikita natin slight uptick in numbers due to post holidays pa pero medyo nagsta-stabilize reproduction numbers natin,” said Dr. Guido David.

(We're hoping that it won’t turn out to be a superspreader [event] because we're not seeing any indications yet. The slight uptick in numbers that we have observed was due to post holidays and our reproduction number is stabilizing.)

Thousands of Catholic devotees attended several Masses in and around Quiapo Church on January 9 to commemorate the annual Feast of the Black Nazarene. The Traslacion procession usually held for the occasion, which draws millions of devotees to Quiapo yearly, was cancelled due to the pandemic.

“We were thinking na 'yung previous [Feast of the Black Nazarene] may effect siya, may risk siya pero hindi naman guaranteed na it would lead to transmission. Baka naman malakas ang power ng prayer nila na-avert nila 'yung transmission o somehow nasunod nila 'yung social distancing,” he said in an interview on TeleRadyo.

(We were thinking the previous [Feast of the Black Nazarene] had an effect, has risks but it's not guaranteed that it would lead to transmission. Maybe the power of their prayer is strong that they averted the transmission or somehow they followed social distancing.) 

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Catholic devotees also began attending Masses related to the feast of the Sto. Niño this weekend, amid repeated warnings from Church, health and police officials against crowding around Sto. Niño churches in Manila for the event. But David said the possibility of transmission among devotees would depend on the specifics of the gathering.

David said transmission is not that high outdoors compared to when an event is held indoors. But the risk of transmission is still significant outside if physical distancing and other health protocols are not strictly observed. 
 
“Hindi ko sinasabing walang risk, sinasabi ko lang the risk is not that high,” he said.

(I’m not saying there is no risk but rather the risk is not that high.)

David said they are still hopeful that the recently held Black Nazarene feast and the new virus variant won't cause a spike in the number of infections. He said it usually takes about one to two weeks before people get the symptoms of COVID-19.

“So we're hopeful walang increase dito sa [Feast of the Black Nazarene] and walang increase due to the new variant because we're not seeing a big increase doon sa reproduction number. Kasi kung nandito na 'yung new variant at marami siya dito it would cause a different trajectory doon sa reproduction number,” he said.

(We're hopeful that the [Feast of the Black Nazarene] and the new variant have not caused an increase in the number of cases because we're not seeing a big increase in the reproduction number. Because if the new variant is here it would cause a different trajectory in our reproduction number.)

David said Metro Manila has a reproduction number of 1.1. A reproduction number of more than 1 means that the infection is spreading to more people since one infected person could infect one or more.

Health authorities earlier this week confirmed that the new, more transmissible COVID-19 variant has reached the Philippines in a Filipino who had returned from Dubai. The patient is said to be now asymptomatic while completing treatment.

David said the group has yet to see local transmission of the new variant.

“So far we haven’t detected dito sa Philippine Genome Center, we haven’t detected this new variant sa local testing natin. Ang nakita natin is 'yung mga nagpunta sa ibang bansa doon. It’s possible na sa ibang bansa nakuha itong new variant na ito,” he said.

(So far the Philippine Genome Center, we haven’t detected this new variant in our local testing. It’s possible that they got infected abroad.)

The Philippine government has imposed a travel ban on 35 countries to prevent the spread of the new virus variant. The travel restriction will last until the end of the month.

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